Paddy & Nick slam retired defence chiefs’ Lib Dem slurs

Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown united today in condemning three retired members of the defence establishment who have a letter published in today’s Times attempting to frighten voters away from voting Lib Dem with crude warnings what perils await Britain if the party gains power.

The letter has just three signatories: Peter Clarke, Sir Richard Dearlove, and Lord Guthrie. Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown issued a masterly put-down of the trio in the Times:

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, the former Lib Dem leader who helped to draw up the party’s defence and national security policies, responded to today’s letter, saying: “This is a last-minute election stunt to frighten the electorate into voting for the Tories.” He said that he was surprised by the signatories because Lord Guthrie had agreed a report on long-term security needs that Lord Ashdown wrote for the IPPR think-tank and which had formed the basis of the Lib Dem manifesto. He said of Sir Richard: “He does have to understand that the world has moved on from when he supplied Tony Blair with his intelligence about Iraq and WMD.”

And Nick was no less damning in his critique:

I care passionately about the national security of this country but I am not going to take any lectures from a bunch of retired establishment figures about the security of this country, some of whom actually made the biggest mistakes in the run up to the Iraq war. And I am not going to apologise for calling for an inquiry in to the allegations that somehow British security services might have been complicit in torture.”

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This entry was posted in General Election.


  • Paul McKeown 4th May '10 - 2:39pm

    I thought five generals had come out in support of not replacing Trident with a like for like weapons system. Five beats three, unless you’re a Tory trolling in The Time.

  • Paul McKeown 4th May '10 - 3:38pm

    Alec, your opinions are so unfounded and such an obvious troll, everyone has decided not to feed you!


  • The defence chiefs are defending control orders which is basically house arrest without a conviction in court. Last time I checked this wasn’t Burma and we should defend the principal of innocent until proven guilty. Allowing intercept evidence in court should allow us to convict these people either that or we can’t prove they are guilty

  • Malcolm Todd 5th May '10 - 10:03am


    (i) is a fair point, but rather ignores the reality of electoral politics; yes, in the final stages of an often nasty campaign, a bit of slightly inconsistent ad hominem is pretty inevitable. Clegg’s a sight more sinned against than sinning in this case; and there’s no basis for your equating this with “petulantly shout[ing] him down”. Nobody’s stopped any of these retired establishment figures from being heard.

    (ii) Well, if you say so. I don’t remember Blair’s speech to parliament for the specific vote; but the idea that you can reduce “Blair’s case for the invasion” to just what he said in that single speech is specious. Are you seriously suggesting that Iraq’s possession of WMD was not front and centre of the months-long campaign by Blair and the whole government of which he was firmly in control to secure support for military action?

    (iii) There are indeed highly dangerous individuals in this country – including paedophiles, armed robbers, murderers, rapists… But we cling to the notion that for any particular individual to be deprived of their liberty by the state, that individual should be proved before a court to have actually done something illegal. That’s the whole point of this argument. Niklas’ aside “(Unless these men are willing to lock people up on the basis of hearsay alone?)” is clearly a way of indicating what he feels is the logical conclusion of the REFs’ arguments, not an accusation of a plan for legal internment, so it’s either disingenuous or naive to demand evidence for this non-allegation.

  • Malcolm Todd 5th May '10 - 3:19pm

    Well, thanks for the link, Alec, from which:

    The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I beg to move,

    That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; recognises that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security;
    … …
    First, let us recap the history of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
    … …

    … and on and on, throughout Blair’s speech. How on earth do you interpret that as “Tony Blair’s speech to Parliament for the vote did not mention ‘WMD’.” Did you not understand what WMD stands for?

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