+++ Paddy Ashdown to chair 2015 general election campaign

Party leader speeches at conferences rarely contain completely untrailed and fresh news. Nick Clegg’s does: that Paddy Ashdown will chair the party’s 2015 general election campaign.

Although his name wasn’t one of those I speculated about previously, it is a logical choice because the party’s plan is to fight a 1997-style general election campaign, with a tough national vote share environment hopefully bucked by very effective Parliamentary by-election style campaigns in around 75 seats. Ashdown was leader during that 1997 campaign, and also for the 1992 election when the question of ‘what would you do in a hung Parliament?’ dominated much of the campaign.

His experience fits the bill for the 2015 campaign very well, and him being a figure seen as much warmer to Labour than Nick Clegg brings a degree of political balance that will reassure more sceptical party activists.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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This entry was posted in Conference and News.


  • Paddy is an excellent choice. He will be very effective at ensuring the resources go to the seats we can win and hold – and not spread ourselves too thinly. I hope this new role won’t prevent him getting out and campaigning too. He was remarkable in 2010 and his five separate visits to the Bristol region were a huge boost to our campaigns. I remember one time when a group of us were waiting for Paddy to arrive outside a less than salubrious pub where some locals – rather the worse for wear – were heckling and abusing us! Within moments of arriving Paddy strode over to them, quickly established one was an ex-serviceman, and within five minutes was posing for photographs with them all. That amazing charisma won us extra media air-time, votes on the doorstep, and got extra volunteers out in their dozens. And it was the same wherever he went. It is asking a lot for him to do such an extensive tour again – but I hope he won;t just be holed up in a conference room at HQ!

  • paul barker 26th Sep '12 - 8:38pm

    OK I am quite mad but I believe there is still a 50/50 chance of beating labours vote share in 2015, something which would have massive effects across politics though it wouldnt get us many extra seats. The 75 by-elections approach is still the right one but I think we need to be very flexible about the national message.

  • Furious Lib Dem 26th Sep '12 - 8:48pm

    “OK I am quite mad but I believe there is still a 50/50 chance of beating labours vote share in 2015, ”

    I will flirt with the risk of moderatorial censure – but yes you are 🙂 .

    Even if you put Labour unchanged on 29% we would be looking at a national vote share of Con 30/Lab 29/LD 29 for that to happen.

  • Unfortunately Paddy is to old for the job. Not sure who else they could have got, but Paddy no longer comes across well on the TV. This appointment smacks of desperation from a leader who is struggling badly. We are heading for the worse general election performance in over 20 yrs and with or without Clegg I can’t see any way of avoiding it.

  • Malc – this is en internal role; tv doesn’t come into it.

    Jedi – “Liberalism is the enemy” straight from the mouth of a senior Labour MP. Good to have it confirmed!

  • I agree with Paul Barker, I am equally crazy, but there is a chance of the Lib Dems beating Labour’s share of the vote. There is also the possibility of barely surviving. I think that’s what was always going to happen if the Lib Dems (or indeed any other party) broke through the Con/Lab see saw with a coalition arrangement but without PR.

    I think the results of the next election depend on a long list of “If’s”, and most of those are unknown at present. If the Lib Dem’s in the Government stop the Conservatives from doing anything significant, anything that is unpopular with the voters, the opinion polls will spring up in the Lib Dems favour. I really want that to happen, but there is also far too many more If’s to list. If the economy picks up, if the left-wing voters who currently see you as just helping the right wing wake the heck up to the fact that attacking the Lib Dems is not going to help Labour enough, but it is giving UKIP a field day, if the Coalition stalls at the right moment, anything could happen.

    Most importantly, I am looking for a political party in the UK that can apply real brains to the economy, and protect the poorest from total destitution. I do not believe that I am alone out here. This country needs a political option that provides a good economy without the draconian spite the Conservative ‘s always drag along with their package. It needs a change from the inane extreme mood swing politics that it has suffered under for 100 years, brought to it by two opponents who are mutually dependent on each other and cannot muster enough honesty between them to admit it. It will be hard work, but no one in the UK does political hard work better than Liberal Democrats.

    Paddy Ashdown is not too old to be Paddy Ashdown, and I think he is right for the job. Age is experience, and he has got it. Either way, please carry on Lib Demming, you are the original alternative to the Tories, and you are the only competent left wing!

  • “Malc – this is en internal role; tv doesn’t come into it.”

    Presumably you haven’t been a member for very long. In the 1992 election campaign it was remarked on that Des Wilson was on TV far more than most of those who were actually candidates.

    I think getting Paddy Ashdown on TV very much comes into it.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Sep '12 - 9:01am

    This is a smart move by Clegg.

    Ashdown isn’t universally liked but he is widely recognised within the party for having led a very successful GE campaign in ’92 in very difficult circumstances and then beat expectations again in ’97.

    In basic terms that’s exactly the same trick we need to pull in ’15 and Ashdown’s skills lend themselves well to that approach.

    All the other signs seem to be that the party is going to be concentrating on holding what we’ve got and targeting a fairly limited number of exta seats, and Ashdown’s success was based on mobilising the party’s resources to back such a strategy.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if we also see a lot more of Chris Rennard, and possibly see him being brought in in a supporting role too.

  • Trevor Stables 27th Sep '12 - 9:31am

    Paddy is a first class choice, maybe we should get our “attack Dog” Lord Matthew Oakeshott on board too…I find him a very articulate and cogent exponent of what we need to do to gain economic growth and Lib Dem credibility.
    Nick Clegg’s sech yesterday told us how it is…and remember….the vast number of seats we could pick up are from the Tories and fewer are from Labour so apealing to Tory voters with a sense of fairness and economic credibilty is exactly what we should be doing.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Sep '12 - 12:40pm

    back to the past!

  • Neil’s last sentence is bang on. Different people chaired the 97, 01 and 05 GE campaigns but there was a common factor in all three – and that was Chris.

    I jokingly said in about 2004 when there were rumours about Chris not running another GE for the party that the day he quit from that role I would start backing the party to lose seats at the subsequent election. I was pretty much right but its a pity for my wallet that I didn’t take my own advice!

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