Paddy has Brexit campaigners floundering on Question Time

Paddy Ashdown has been in very combative form on the EU Referendum. Actually, the one debate I would love to see would be Paddy vs Boris. Our former leader would show up the Mayor’s vacuous, disingenuous rhetoric for what it is.

Paddy is truly getting out there and taking the fight right to Brexiteers in a way that nobody else has managed. He’s been pretty punchy on Twitter for the last few weeks:

Last night he was on Question Time. All he asked Liam Fox and Kate Hoey to do was to provide the name of one respected, independent international organisation who thinks it’s a good idea for us to leave the EU. They couldn’t.

There was one moment of comedy gold from Hoey, too. Paddy had said that it was perfectly fine for Obama, as our ally, to give his views on the referendum, especially as the US had a history of stepping in to help us when we needed it. He also called out Hoey for calling the US President a patronising hypocrite. She objected, denying she had said that, because what she had really said was that he was being patronising and hypocritical. You couldn’t make it up.

You can watch the whole episode on iPlayer here. It’s an hour of your life you won’t regret giving up.

The audience seemed more stacked against Paddy and the EU than the polls would suggest. That shows that we need more of his passion and punch in the pro EU argument. As one of the country’s most respected internationalists, we should be seeing a lot of him in the next 2 months.

What we’re missing, though, is the sort of humour and thoughtfulness that Charles Kennedy would have brought to the campaign. We need to find a way to tug on people’s heartstrings with his sort of warmth and reasonableness, too. Success for the pro-EU campaign means not just a majority of the votes on June 23rd, it’s about winning enough hearts and minds to stop the sort of division we have seen in Scotland.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Paddy Ashdown on one side and Kate Hoey on the other, I bet that attracted the viewers. I’m sorry, I know Ashdown used to be good, but he’s way past his best and Hoey never had a best. Both sides will have to do an awful lot better than that.

  • So Paddy is in favour of protectionism to keep UK food prices artificially high then.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Apr '16 - 12:46pm


    Very good comments from you and looking forward to seeing that on my set top box awaiting .The moment I realised Paddy was on it I knew I had to see it .Similarly await President Obama s speech.

    Paddy Ashdown is very far from being a spent force , like Shirley Williams who is a decade older , I see him continuing to add value to our debate .He is one of the finest ploiticians we have ever had.

  • Tony Greaves 22nd Apr '16 - 1:07pm

    Food in this country is probably too cheap at present. (Delete “probably”). Unbridled “free trade” controlled by global corporations will impoverish the third world, close down pour countryside and destroy the planet. Fair trade is not protectionism.

    Tony Greaves

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Apr '16 - 1:11pm

    Very good Caron. Spot on about the benefits of a bit of humour. Making arguments without personal attacks is also something I think Charles Kennedy used to do, which is why people from across the spectrum praised him greatly when he died.

    Paddy is a great asset for the Remain side, but his comment about cheap food was a mistake. There are arguments against uber-liberal free trade such as environmental concerns, safety concerns, security, responsibility, but low cost isn’t really one when it helps poorer countries.

    There’s an argument around stability, but overall we need to open markets up. Many Brexiters are only part-committed to free trade anyway because they will moan about the lack of competition in agriculture one minute and then moan about too much competition in fishing and in the labour market the next.

  • John Roffey 22nd Apr '16 - 1:27pm

    Caron – was the program you are describing the one that was on BBC 1 last night at around 10.45?

    I ask because your description bears little resemblance to the program I watched at that time.

  • Adrian Jarrett 22nd Apr '16 - 3:12pm

    I watched Question Time last night. My dream is UK votes for Brexit and this emboldens all the millions of Eurosceptics across Europe to rise up and throw out the EU ( peacefully with the ballot box) and replace it with a European Common (trading) Market which is what ( I thought) I was voting for in 1975. Come on Paddy this is what you and all the Remainers want anyway , join us Brexiters for the reformed EC.

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '16 - 4:32pm

    Paddy did a pretty good job last night. He didn’t stoke up barnstorming enthusiasm for the European ideal, but that’s not surprising. Once it was possible to be starry-eyed about Europe. Not any more. Europe has made too many mistakes, muddles and tired compromises to attract starry-eyed enthusiasm these days. In 2014, Nick Clegg tried to argue that Europe was just fine the way it is. Farage hit him for six. Any other politician who tries to make a big positive enthusiastic case for Europe will similarly be laughed at or ignored.

    It has to be Project Fear, or at any rate Project Realism, because that’s the simple truth of the issue. Staying in Europe won’t solve many of our problems, but leaving would bring a massive host of new ones. Brexit would see the end of Cameron. Our erstwhile allies in Europe would take bitter revenge against his Brexitist successor and drive a harsher bargain on trade than anyone would think reasonable. The EU could very well fall apart. That would set the stage for the decline and fall of Europe. Given looming resource shortages and migration pressures, the long-term risk of reversion to a semi-permanent state of war within the countries of Western Europe is a perfectly real one.

    We won’t make any friends, or win any votes for the party, with this grim campaign. But we might persuade enough people to recognise what the truth is. We need to be part of winning the referendum, for all our sakes.

  • So Paddy,

    It’s ok for our dairy farmers to go to the wall as we import (EU) Irish butter, but it would be wrong for our apple growers to go to the wall by importing (Third World) apples?

  • David Allen is convinced that :
    “Our erstwhile allies in Europe would take bitter revenge against his [Cameron’s], Brexitist successor…”
    We keep hearing this,.. post Brexit,… ‘there will be blood’ stuff, time and again. Can someone put together a reasoned argument as to why a ‘revenge response’ would be economically advantageous to other European countries, without ultimately backfiring on said,.. revenge-taker? In fact,..has anyone got any example from history, where revenge has been a useful motivator of economic interaction.? There are sanctions, but those are implemented globally, as a ‘bad behaviour’ correction tool,.. not for revenge. I know of no historic account of revenge being used as a instrument of trade?
    Indeed, all evidence proves the exact opposite. Whilst politicians are busy, looking for enemies, money will hold its nose, and avert its eyes, if there’s a profit to be made. Seriously,.. We only need to worry about revenge from Europe when someone works out how to make a profit from it?
    As for Paddy,..almost no-one was listening to Paddy. He looked like someone from a distant past, and gave every impression of being just another ‘establishment echo’ who doesn’t understand the anger and the desire for liberty that motivates Brexit.

  • Roger billins 22nd Apr '16 - 7:49pm

    The anger and desire for Liberty that motivates Brexit. What utter nonsense. With the honourable exception of David Davies, the Brexit mob are burnt out reactionaries who yearn for the days of Empire. Many of them are racist and homophobic and a U.K. In the hands of Farage, Gove and Johnson would involve the biggest set back to liberty for many decades. Why do Brexit supporters believe that a Government elected with less than 30% of the popular vote with an unelected upper house is such a beacon of democracy ?

  • Paul Murray 22nd Apr '16 - 7:59pm

    @J Dunn – the only reason for “taking revenge” against a post-brexit UK would be “pour encourager les autres”. There is a fairly obvious list of countries that might be encouraged to hold their own referenda and hanging the UK out to dry might be seen as a way of dissuading them. But of course if our EU partners would contemplate such a strategy to keep the project going then that would be overwhelming reason to vote “leave”.

    I agree with you that the economic arguments are moot – especially when the arguments on both sides are so spurious. This is not about economics. It is about self-government by sovereign nations.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Apr '16 - 7:01am

    So far this is the best thing I have read on the extraordinarily difficult decision that faces each and everyone of us.

    The EU as presently constituted and driven is indefensible. And the process of a referendum is causing the inners to entrench their support for a dysfunctional organisation instead of using their imagination and zeal to reform it. Hence all the scare tactics.

    Here is A E-P on the EU, “The EU is a strategic relic of a post-War order that no longer exists, and a clutter of vested interests that caused Europe to miss the IT revolution.” (Note also his warnings about the form of mercantilism that is being created.)

    He is the first person to conduct some ‘gaming’ analysis on how other member states might react to the UK seeking to leave. And he rightly sees the dangers coming from Putin and the viciously right wing regimes that are in charge in the eastern member states.

    So, the decision is finely balanced. And what of the Lib Dems? It is so easy for our leaders to grandstand’ and receive their pats on the backs for wholehearted support. But this is both a disservice to the British people who need politicians in the next few weeks to express the complexity of the decision rather than picture everyone’s path to their decision as simple. “You are mad if you want to leave.” And a lost opportunity for Liberal Democrats to inform people of the complexities, including those for the country of remaining in, and to lead a campaign for reform.

    And who inside the Party is doing the grandstanding? Why, those who led the Party so poorly over the last 8 years and those who defended their leadership as they drove our car off the cliff.

    We have a few weeks after the May elections to send out a distinctive message that a simple Remain or Leave vote will not allow us to save the fortunes of this country and of Europe from the tremendous political challenge that is heading our way.

    This is our 1930s. We must not ‘appease’ the Eurocrats. Ahead of us is Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat.

  • Adrian Jarrett 23rd Apr '16 - 11:45am

    So Obama has said the UK will go to the back of the trading queue in the event of Brexit has he! So what , he will be history very soon and the new president may appreciate the UKs plucky guts in getting out of a bloated inefficient EU ( I could describe it in ruder terms) and make us head of the queue ! You will not reform the EU from within , the only way to reform it is for Eurosceptics across Europe to peacefully throw it out by the ballot box and recreate the Common (trading ) Market. Incidentally I WAS lied to in 1975 ( despite what Alan Johnson says) I was told it was just a trading market not a political union. Love Europe ,HATE the EU.

  • David Allen 23rd Apr '16 - 1:05pm

    “Can someone put together a reasoned argument as to why a ‘revenge response’ would be economically advantageous to other European countries, without ultimately backfiring on said,.. revenge-taker? In fact,..has anyone got any example from history, where revenge has been a useful motivator of economic interaction?”

    Well, starting with the rational perspective, what Britain threatens to do is to give the rest of the EU a massive kick in the teeth. The EU does not want that to happen. It is only logical, therefore, that the rest of Europe should seek to dissuade us from taking such a step. To do so by making open threats could, of course, backfire. However, what might be said in private to Cameron would be quite a different matter. I suspect that it has been made quite clear to Cameron that Brexit will mean the end of the City of London as a dominant financial centre, and its replacement by Frankfurt. Indeed, this may be why Cameron himself has so clearly distanced himself from his earlier flirtations with Euroscepticism. And for all those (including myself) who would be tempted to raise a cheer to the demise of the City – let’s remember which side our bread is buttered on. Britain simply has nothing much else left to live on, these days, without the “finance industry”!

    But rationality isn’t all that history is about. There are abundant examples of emotionally driven revenge as a political motivator. The rise of Hitler is generally acknowledged to arise from German revenge for the excessive reparations imposed by the victors of the First World War. For many years US policies to Japan were dominated by the desire for revenge after Pearl Harbour. Conflicts such as Israel-Palestine and Irish Catholic-Protestant can be seen as repeating cycles of mutual revenge. Yes J Dunn, revenge can backfire on the revenger, but it hurts both sides.

    A Brexit would be a destructive act of aggression against our European allies. History tells us that the consequences of such acts are often much more serious and harmful than their reckless perpetrators would blithely have presumed.

  • David Evershed 23rd Apr '16 - 4:29pm

    Paddy should read the history of the Corn Laws 1815 to 1848.

    In 1815 import tariffs were imposed on corn by the Conservative government to keep domestic corn prices high in favour of the rich land owning farmers and at the expense of the general poor population who ate bread made from the corn.

    The Whig governments, in power for most of the years between 1830 and 1841, decided not to repeal the Corn Laws. However the Liberal Whig MP Charles Pelham Villiers proposed motions for repeal in the House of Commons every year from 1837 to 1845.

    In 1846 the Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel, with a split party, voted to repeal the Corn Law tariff by 1848 with support from Whigs and Radicals in parliament.

    So Liberal party predecesors have a mixed history of supporting rich farmers against food consumers rather than supporting free trade.

    Paddy Ashdown has not learned from history.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Apr '16 - 5:10am

    Bill le Breton
    A good response .As with many issues the party line of all parties is too vague or too obvious !
    On the EU our leaders and activists are too convinced we have one party view . I get an almost daily invitation by e mail ,to attend , agree with or involve myself in some or other pro EU event , stall, petition , goodness !

    I was very in the middle on this issue , because of , not despite my being Liberal Democrat .I am moving towards a remain vote , despite , not because of the presumptious campaigning of my , our , own party !

  • Why do Leavers even in our own party get so hysterical about “independence” and sovereign governance when in a global economy , there is no such possibility ?

  • Mick Taylor 25th Apr '16 - 8:22pm

    I really do get fed up about the continual lies about TTIP. The NHS is not part of TTIP and the Liberal Commissioner in charge of negotiations has repeatedly said this. Yet we keep on hearing the same lie that TTIP threatens the NHS. It doesn’t, it never has and it never will. Government financed and run services are not, repeat not part of TTIP. There may well be a threat to the NHS from the Tory Government (just look at what Jeremy Hunt is doing to junior doctors). This is all on the EU website. Why do people persist in claiming this? Debate TTIP by all means, but don’t lie about it. (Or believe what 38 degrees says)

  • Mick Taylor – It’s because the Leavers arguments don’t depend on facts. They depend on lies.

  • The reality is that Ashdown was trounced.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Apr '16 - 10:19am

    petermartin2001 25th Apr ’16 – 1:37pm The Economist magazine reported on the rules, which were written by the Bundesbank to make the euro like the DM.
    Germans have a memory of very high inflation in the very different political and economic circumstances between WW1 and WW2.
    They also have the experience of merging the Ostmark with the DM at an exchange rate of one to one.
    There were many other commentators. One of the doubts was about the computer systems. The Financial Times reported that 200 banks would need to simultaneously get their programmes 100% perfect at the moment of transition in 1999, which they did.

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