Party releases ‘holding statement’ from Shirley Williams

“I met Gordon Brown at 6:30pm on Wednesday evening. We had a friendly and constructive discussion. I was not offered a Ministerial position and would not have accepted one.

“The Prime Minister and I talked briefly about the dangers of unsecured nuclear materials and nuclear proliferation, subjects I have worked on as a member of the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington DC.

“NTI is a private organisation established by Senator Sam Nunn of the Democratic Party, former chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, and Ted Turner, founder of CNN. Senator Richard Lugar of the Republican Party, former chairman and now ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a Director. 

“NTI, a public charity, is devoted to reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. It builds on the bipartisan Nunn-Lugar initiative after the end of the Cold War, which succeeded in de-activating over 6,000 nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union.   

“NTI has done a great deal to secure nuclear weapons and nuclear materials in the countries of the former Soviet Union, among them Russia itself. It is also concerned with the securing of chemical and biological weapons. I am the only Briton on the board.

“Mr Brown suggested that I might be able to advise his Government on these and related matters. I told him that I would discuss his suggestion with Menzies Campbell and Lord McNally, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, as well as with NTI, and would then get back to him.”

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  • No (2) should be more careful with his facts. Lord Lester of Herne Hill was a founding member of the SDP. Hardly a stereotypical old Liberal, then. And Paddy Ashdown, if my memory serves me right, was considered an impudent upstart by Liberal grandees. Indeed, Alex Carlile somewhat petulantly asked Ashdown how he dared stand against Alan Beith for the leadership. Strange, then, that Ashdown and Carlile should find themselves lumped together like this.

    Are Charles Kennedy and Chris Huhne “going home”, No 2?

    Some would argue (and I am among them), that many of those who came over to the SDP had more in common with the modern social Liberal Party than Labour’s traditional right wing. On this view, they “came home” to what ultimately became the Liberal Democrats.

  • Elizabeth Patterson 29th Jun '07 - 8:35am

    I am enormously disappointed if Shirley Williams has taken this bait. She has been a political role model to me for 25 years, since before she left labour.
    Taken with our leadership problem of Ming Cambell’s stiff, unwarm, edwardian personality, I rather despair of the party I have followed loyally for so long.
    Two things we know about Brown; he doesn’t take advice and will always get his own way. He has aready supported his government in renewing Trident and to nuclear power without solving the waste problem. Shirley has accepted this position in becoming advisor on nuclear matters?
    It does subtly undermine our party position on both.

  • Given that we’re in the business of changing Britain for the better rather than governing for its own sake, if the Government needs our advice on an issue, we should give it (as long as it’s going to be taken seriously).

    If Gordon doesn’t take Shirley’s advice, I’m sure she’ll be the first to say so.

  • The devil makes work for idle hands to do. Wouldn’t it be better if our senior parliamentarians were too busy running around developing policies for Ming to even take the call from Gordon.

  • Brilliant move. Shirley Williams et al broke away from Labour because Labour then became too looney left. When Mr Blair became PM, he almost immediately invited Shirley Williams to come back to New Labour. Lady Williams returning to Government is also a signal to Lib Dems — the party is not sustainable, they’ll never be elected to power, they shouldn’t sit on the political sidelines as professional, perpetual opposition winers, but participate, either in coalition or choosing a side. Lady Williams is a very bright, honest, clear thinking politician. With the lack of talent in the Commons, I’m happy Mr Brown is reaching to the Lords and outside his party for official advice, perspective and experience.

  • Shirley Williams continues to be a strong influence over public policy decision making; always well mannered, articulate, well informed and honest. Lady Williams, as one commentator said, will speak the truth. We need more people like her in Government. But I agree that her move dramatically shifts the political party landscape – for the better. About time talented LibDems start having an official role in governing instead of remaining on the sidelines complaining and fretting. I’d rather see Shirely Williams — and Lord Ashdown — in an active role. That said, Paddy should have accepted the cabinet position. It would have been good for the UK, and good for the a new active assertive LibDems, in leadership roles, imagine that! Another related thought: Frankly, the younger generation of politicians from all parties just don’t compare to the intellectual and strategic heavyweights of a generation ago –Thatcher, Williams, Jenkins — weren’t those parliamentary debates fantastic, better than TV! 🙂

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