Tag Archives: paddy ashdown

Best wishes to Paddy

Paddy Ashdown revealed to Somerset Live today that he is being treated for bladder cancer:

Yes, I’m afraid I can confirm that. I have known for about three weeks that I am suffering from a cancer of the bladder.

I’m being effectively and wonderfully looked after by everyone at Yeovil Hospital, in whom I have complete confidence.

We must see about the outcome, which as always with things like this, is unpredictable.

I’ve fought a lot of battles in my life.

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Paddy gives short shrift to tyrant-slaying boast attributed to Brexit minister

Embed from Getty Images

In yesterday’s Sunday Times (£) there was a report of an interview with Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The interview was conducted by Tim Shipman and the report was entitled:

Dominic Raab: I saw off bully Slobodan Milosevic. Michel Barnier needs a softer touch

Now, I should preface this post with the proviso that The Times has form in regard to inaccurate précis via headline. It could be that the Sunday Times has now been infected with that dodgy headline disease.

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My passion for bold and radical Liberalism reaffirmed, as my time as SLF Chair comes to its end

Last September, Paddy Ashdown said that since the coalition, the Lib Dems had not managed to have even “one big, dangerous idea”.  He said in a blog for Lib Dem Voice:

Unless we are prepared to be realistic about where we are, return to being radical about what we propose, recreate ourselves as an insurgent force and rekindle our lost habit of intellectual ferment, things could get even worse for us.

 It prompted him to launch the Ashdown Prize in March this year, and the winner was announced in June—Dorothy Ford, who proposed an idea on food waste which will be debated at the Autumn Conference.  In a blog on Lib Dem Voice, Caron Lindsay said that though the idea was “worthy”, it was “neither radical or new”.  This dearth of new ideas has been besieging the Lib Dems since 2010, and little seems to be changing.

At the Social Liberal Forum, we have been keeping the flame of new liberal ideas burning since the Lib Dems went into coalition with the Tories in 2010.  We feel that new ideas and renewal/rethinking of old liberal ideas is vital to being the radical force that Liberalism should currently be and always has been.  

I have been known by my colleagues to have said on various occasions, since I became Chair of the SLF in 2016, that “there has never been a more important time for Liberalism than now”.  I passionately believe this, so as my time as Chair draws to a close, and as nominations to the new SLF council are underway, I am re-affirming the vital importance of new, bold, radical ideas that will keep Liberalism as the relevant and necessary force in British politics that it needs to be.

The book that the SLF published earlier this year, Four Go In Search of Big Ideas, was significant for several reasons: it showed that there are many progressive, liberal people out there thinking radically, coherently and sensibly about what we need to do next as a society; that we do not need to be tribal, but can work with others to generate progressive ideas; and that liberal and progressive thinkers are and always have been the people to move politics forward in this country.

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Paddy rallies the troops at Lewisham

It was great to spend a day campaigning for Lucy Salek in Lewisham East yesterday. It was my second time helping the campaign, greatly assisted by an off-peak Travelcard, which allowed fulsome use of the train, tube and bus. Tragically, there was a fatal incident on the line yesterday around Hither Green and Lee stations, meaning that I ended up, to my surprise, in New Eltham, at one point.

Anyway, our enormous HQ was brimming with volunteers all day. A hive of industry. There were people there from as far afield as Falmouth. It was particularly good to join in the traditional Blue envelope addressing work!

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Paddy: Trump’s tweets could trigger war

Paddy Ashdown has been speaking to PoliticsHome about the development of UK foreign policy in the age of Trump and how the US President’s unpredictable actions have an unsettling impact on the world.

“It does not mean that the Atlantic axis is going to be less important, but it ceases to be our primary axis on which to base our defence and probably our foreign policy as well.”

“That relationship must be much more mature, where both sides realise that there will be times when their interests in the world diverge,” he explains, citing US policy on Iran and Israel as two examples.

Beyond these ‘differing interests’ Ashdown presses the Government to  distance itself from the “irrational” Trump approach on “tinder pile” issues like North Korea.

He says the Trump tactic – of mocking and baiting Kim Jong Un on Twitter, alongside battle-cry threats of “fire and fury” – simply creates a space for North Korea to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, as shown by its offer of talks and participation in the upcoming winter Olympics in South Korea.

“We are used to a US president who is careful, thoughtful, intelligent and well informed, and we don’t have that now at the moment at all,” Ashdown laments.

“I can see five piles of tinder around the world, any one of which through inadvertence, stupidity or just blundering could be set alight… any one of which could have the capacity to ignite a much wider conflagration. And you want somebody blundering around the world, firing off tweets? In these very difficult circumstances I don’t think that’s the way to make a safer world. In a world as fragile, turbulent and close to war on several fronts as ours, I don’t think that’s a balanced and wise strategy.”

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Paddy Ashdown: China vs Trump could cause Pacific conflict

Paddy Ashdown has been in Hong Kong this week, talking to the Foreign Correspondents Club about international relations and how the relationship between the Chinese leadership and Donald Trump could unfold. It’s not a pretty sight. Here is his speech in full. He revisits the theme of many of his speeches in recent years about the change in the global balance of power as China’s influence increases. He also has some candid and critical comments about the UK’s time governing Hong Kong.

Peace in the Pacific Region, and very probably the wider world, will depend on two questions.

How will the United States cope with decline?

And how will China fulfil her potential as a super power.

Not long after I returned from Bosnia in 2006, in the middle of the era of small wars, I was asked if great wars were now a thing of the past. I replied no; unhappily the habit of war, large and small, seems inextricably locked into the human gene. But I did not believe that, once we were passed the fossil fuel era, the most likely place for a great conflagration would be the Middle East. If we wanted to see where future great wars might occur, we should look to those regions where mercantilism was leading to an increase in nationalist sentiment and imperialist attitudes, as it did in Europe in the nineteenth century. The only region in the world, I concluded, which matched this description, was the Pacific basin. Nothing I have seen in the intervening decade alters this judgement.

We live in one of those periods of history where the structures of power in the world shift. These are almost always turbulent times and all too often, conflict ridden ones too. How new powers rise and old powers fall, is one of the prime determinants of peace in times like this. The Pacific basin is about to be the cockpit in which this drama is about to be played out

The United States is the most powerful nation on earth and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. But the context in which she holds that power is completely different from what it was. Over the last hundred years or so – the American century – we have lived in a mono-polar world dominated by the American Colossus. This is no longer true. We live now in a multi polar-world – by the way very similar to Nineteenth century Europe where balance among the five powers – the so called Concert of Europe – meant peace and imbalance meant war.

We have seen this before. The end of the European empires after the Second World war led to great instability and much conflict, not least in this region. Britain, by and large, accepted her decline and, mostly, dealt with it in a measured and civilised fashion. We will come onto what that means for Hong Kong in a moment. France, by contrast lashed about soaking first Indo China and then North Africa in blood. The Belgians were even worse in the Belgian Congo.

How the United States copes with her relative decline from the world’s only super power, to primus inter pares in a multi-polar world, is one of the great questions which will decide what happens in this region in the next decade. President Obama seemed to understand this. President Trump, it seems does not. His policies of isolationism, protectionism and confrontation towards China are foolish and dangerous. It is foolish because he is abandoning American leadership of the multilateral space and that will not strengthen America as he suggests, but hasten her decline. Its is dangerous because US isolationism will weaken multilateral instruments which are the only means of resolving conflicts and tackling global problems, such as climate change.

China’s position as a mercantile super-power is already established. It was inevitable that she should now seek to consolidate her trading strength by becoming a political and military super power, too. This is a perfectly natural ambition. It’s the way super powers behave – indeed it’s the way they have to behave to protect their position. This therefore, should not, in and of itself, be a matter of alarm or criticism.

It is natural too – and good – that China should seek to fill the vacuum of leadership in regional and global multilateral institutions left by President Trump’s retreat from this space. It is far better for us all to have an engaged China, than an isolated one.

The last great strategic opportunity faced by the West was the fall of the Soviet Union. We should then have reached out to engage Russia, to draw her in, to help her re-build and reform. Instead we foolishly treated Moscow with triumphalism and humiliation, orchestrated largely by Washington. The result was inevitable and he’s called Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin.

We are now faced with a second equivalent opportunity. Can we reach out to build constructive relationships with a rising China?

On the face of it, the signs have been hopeful.

China has seemed keen to be a good world citizen. She has engaged constructively in multilateral institutions – look at the WTO as an example; look at her support for the UN Security Council resolution on sanctions for North Korea; look at her engagement with international forces to tackle the scourge of the Somali pirates around the Horn of Africa; look at her participation in international disaster relief – for instance in north east Pakistan; look at her involvement with UN peace keeping to which she has committed more troops under multi-national command than the United States and Europe combined. Yes, they are mostly in Africa where she has good reasons to want to keep the peace. But there is nothing new in that. Western nations too only send troops to keep the peace, where it is in their interests to do so.

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Paddy Ashdown writes…An essay to my party on the eve of Conference: Four dangerous ideas

So, here, as promised are four dangerous ideas for the future. Please be clear. I am not necessarily proposing these. Just asking why we are not even discussing them?

Dangerous idea 1

We are guiltily obsessed with student fees. The fact that we don’t need to be, because the principle is right, does not make life easier (how I wish we had called them a Graduate tax!). But now with the student loan debt rising, do we not also have to consider how we get better value for what students pay? If we have a tertiary education system which cannot be paid for without loading more and more debt on our young, should we not be looking at the system, not just at how they pay? We persist in the medieval practice of taking students to medieval ivy covered buildings, to receive their education in the medieval manner from minds, too many of which, when it comes to delivering education, are stuck in the middle ages. Yet distance learning was pioneered in Britain at the Open University when communicating with your tutor meant stuffing your academic paper in an envelope, licking it, sticking a stamp on it and putting it in the local post-box. Today the whole planet is into distance learning. Many of our own Universities make tons of money providing distance learning degree courses to students all over the world. But none of them are in Britain! If we were to convert at least part of our tertiary education syllabus to distance learning we might reduce the cost of degrees without diminishing their quality, give students more flexibility, force lecturers into the modern age, widen access and create a superb platform for adult education all at the same time. Why, beloved Lib Dems, do we allow medieval vested interests to preserve our ivy covered tertiary education system exactly as it is, loading more and more debt on students and preventing us from doing what much of the rest of the world is doing already? Just asking.

Dangerous idea 2

We have long understood that property owning rights are one of the foundation stones of democracy. Yet each of us, gives away our most intimate of property free and daily to the most powerful corporations, who make millions and millions from it.I am talking of course, about our personal data. Why do we Lib Dems not assert the citizens right to own their own data and to have control over how it is used? Why about proposing a law – perhaps a European one – which says to Messrs Amazon, Google, Starbucks etc, that they can use our personal data for their commercial purposes, but only with our permission and if they give us a share of the profits. Can you think of anything which would more alter the relationship between these masters of the commercial universe and the customers whose information they exploit for such enormous profit? Can you think of anything which would more empower the citizen in the market pace? Isn’t that what we Lib Dems are supposed to be about? So?

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Tories’ Royal Marine cut plays fast and loose with UK defence

It makes sense that Paddy should write for the Plymouth Herald on defence given the city’s strategic importance.

He took the Government to task for cutting the Marines – about which he knows more than most people:

For more than three centuries – from Gibraltar and Trafalgar to Normandy and Afghanistan – the Royal Marines have epitomised those qualities. They have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. In our nation’s hours of danger, they have been, as Lord St Vincent predicted in 1802, “the country’s sheet anchor”.

So the news that the Government is cutting 200 Royal Marine posts – at such a volatile time in world affairs – should concern us all. They are committing this folly in response to a crisis of their own making.

The cost of Conservative foolishness doesn’t end with the Royal Marines. They’ve cut personnel numbers, breaking their manifesto promise not to reduce the Army below 82,000. Troops on the frontline are deprived of basic equipment and combat training has been slashed, putting soldiers’ lives in greater peril. Warships sit idle at quaysides. No wonder top generals have accused the Government of “deception” over defence.

The Tories are very practised at talking tough on defence in elections. But look at the history: it’s always Tories who cut most on defence in government. It’s now clear that Mrs May will get back in because of the hopelessness of the Labour Party. But it would be very dangerous to give her a big enough majority to ignore us again.

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Paddy: Royal Marines paying the price of two floating white elephants

In a typically passionate and knowledgeable intervention, ex-Royal Marine Paddy Ashdown has attacked cuts of 200 posts in his former fighting unit:

In an unpredictable age, we need forces that are fast, flexible and mobile. That’s what the Royal Marines do at a world-class level.

To cut their numbers to fill a Naval manpower black hole is not just poor reward for their service over the last years, but a folly which plays fast and loose with the nation’s defences.

The Royal Marines have carried the greatest burden in the defence of our country over the last decade – they have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. They are also the crucial manpower pool from which we draw many of our Special Forces.

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Lib Dems respond to US air strikes on Syria

It was quite disconcerting to wake up this morning to see that Donald Trump had launched air strikes. There is no question that Syria needs to be dealt with. You just can’t have any government getting away with gassing its own people. I just feel uneasy about Donald Trump being in charge of this. Does he even have a proper strategy? I also feel uneasy about our Government just slipping into line behind him.

On Question Time last night, Tim Farron was talking about the importance of establishing no fly zones and of humanitarian aid, but made clear that doing nothing was not an option in the face of an attack as horrific as the one we saw earlier this week.

He has since described Trump’s action as “proportionate” but went on to say that our Government’s response was not sufficient:

The attack by American forces was a proportionate response to the barbarous attack by the Syrian government on its own people.

The British government rather than just putting out a bland statement welcoming this should now follow it up and call an emergency meeting of the Nato alliance to see what else can be done, be that more surgical strikes or no fly zones.

Evil happens when good people do nothing, we cannot sit by while a dictator gasses his own people. We cannot stand by, we must act.

I don’t always agree with what they say, but in situations like this, I always look for the views of three people: Paddy, Ming and Julie Smith

On Twitter, Paddy said:

I also had a conversation with Julie on Twitter:

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LibLInk: Paddy Ashdown: Theresa May’s Brexit is not what people voted for. They deserve another say

Paddy Ashdown set out his view of Theresa May’s Brexit speech in a typically blistering article in the Independent:

Nobody voted, he says, for the Britain the Tories have planned, as revealed by Phlilip Hammond over the weekend:

Last weekend in Germany, Chancellor Philip Hammond blurted out the truth about the course May has chosen. Retain the closest economic links with the EU, he said, and Britain will remain a broadly European-style nation. If we cast off all our European moorings and head for the open sea, we risk having to turn ourselves into a low-tax, no-regulation, cheap-labour equivalent of Singapore. Then, among other things we have come to take for granted and enjoy in our country, we would say goodbye to workplace rights, the welfare state as we know it, policies to protect our environment and European style protections for our civil liberties.

The people should have their say on this, he says (unsurprisingly)

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Senior Liberal Democrats respond to Theresa May’s hard Brexit

We brought you Tim Farron’s response to Theresa May’s announcement that Britain is seeking reckless isolation, but what have other Liberal Democrats been saying about it.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder:

This government’s pursuit of a hard Brexit and pulling Britain out of the Single Market will mean losing so much more than just free trading arrangements.

Theresa May’s hard Brexit will strip future generations of the life-changing opportunities to travel, work and study across Europe.

Millions who voted both Remain and Leave on 23rd June don’t endorse this extreme version of Brexit. It must be the people who have a say on any final Brexit deal.

The EU referendum left Britain deeply divided and it seems Theresa May is intent on stoking further discord and division.

Sooner or later this Conservative Brexit government will realise that it cannot govern for only those who endorse Nigel Farage’s vision for Europe.

 

Paddy Ashdown:

Willie Rennie: The Conservatives are hell bent on a hard Brexit that nobody voted for

Nick Clegg:

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In pictures: Leaders from the archives

Just delving about in the Getty Images archive, I happened upon these great images of our current leader and some of our past leaders*. Please click on the images to read the captions.

* includes predecessor parties.

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Lord Malcolm Bruce writes… Liberalism revitalised

I want to respond to the challenges issued by Paddy and Vince during our conference.

Paddy said the party was “intellectually dead.” Vince said our position on another referendum was disrespectful to the electorate.

Let me take on Vince first. We and our predecessors supported UK membership of the European Community from its inception. The SDP was created largely because of Labour’s equivocation over British membership. We campaigned unstintingly for Remain and we remain convinced that the UK ‘s interests are best served by being a key member of the European Union.

Yes, by a narrow margin the country voted Leave but we have not changed our view and, given that there is no clear idea of what kind of relationship people want – in or out of the single market – let alone the hundreds of cooperative agreements built up over the last 43 years.

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Paddy Ashdown’s naughty thoughts

When you or I have naughty thoughts, we tend not to share them with 30,000 people. Paddy Ashdown on the other hand….

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Some questions for More United

In a blaze on social media. the More United project, supported by Paddy Ashdown, launches this morning.

It’s certainly ambitious:

MoreUnited.uk is a new movement setting out to change British politics. We’re going to transform the way politics is funded, giving a voice to the millions of open and tolerant people in Britain who feel the political system no longer works for them.

It has a Facebook page here and you can follow it on Twitter here.

They intend to fund candidates who subscribe to a series of pretty broad principles:

 A fair, modern, efficient market based economy that closes the gap between rich and poor and supports strong public services

A modern democracy that empowers citizens, rather than politicians

A green economy that protects the environment and works to reverse climate change

An open and tolerant society where diversity is celebrated in all its forms

A United Kingdom that welcomes immigration, international co-operation and a close relationship with the EU

There some example policies to flesh this stuff out.

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Paddy Ashdown to endorse new progressive liberal movement

Paddy Ashdown is one of the names behind a new progressive, liberal political movement which will campaign on issues close to many of our hearts. It will set out ideas on political reform, our role in the world and demand a second electoral test of any Brexit settlement.

The Guardian reports:

The initiative is not a political party, nor an attempt to create a new centrist one on the model of the SDP in the 1980s. But if the movement were to succeed in attracting subscribers to a website, it could intervene in politics by recommending specific candidates at the next election.

The proposal is one of many ideas floating on the centre-left in the wake of the EU referendum and will be formally launched within a week. It is likely to support a second endorsement of Britain’s exit from the European Union if circumstances required or permitted, as well as welcoming immigration and globalisation, a green economy, modern democracy that empowers citizens and a fair economy that seeks to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

It is understood a collection of convenors would seek to give the initiative political direction and oversee the gathering of names though to mid-September. Sources involved in setting up the movement stressed it would be a gathering point, and would not seeking to stand candidates at elections, but if as many as 200,000 were prepared to sign up, a new centre-left force could be formed that could endorse a specific existing party candidate at as many as 50 seats at the election.

At the weekend, Tim Farron talked about this sort of realignment to the Independent:

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Realignment of the left – an idea whose time has come?

Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron have both suggested in recent days that those on the progressive side of politics need to work together to oppose the Tories and deliver change.

Of course, a defining part of Paddy’s leadership of the party was his desire to see closer co-operation on the left.

The Tories need to be beaten, now more than ever, even more than in the 1980s. Their destruction of the country then almost pales into insignificance to the damage they have done with their self-indulgent EU related civil war. How do we achieve it, though, while retaining the integrity of individual parties, most particularly this one? The last thing I want to see is the Liberal Democrats being the smile on the face of the right-wing Labour tiger.

It’s vital that we have a party that stands up for civil liberties and individual freedom in a way that neither Conservatives or Labour have managed.

Politics Home reported an interview with Tim Farron with BBC News in which he talked about the need to work together across party lines:

Asked about the prospect of a merger that would mirror the deal between the SDP and Liberal party that formed the Liberal Democrats, Mr Farron suggested the referendum campaign had led to a reconsideration of the party divides.

“Amongst the things that I think we’ve got out of the referendum is that we’ve discovered, lots of us, who have worked across party boundaries, that we’ve enjoyed doing so,” he told BBC News.

“I shared a platform with many people I won’t embarrass by naming, who they discovered and they discovered we had more in common than just our belief that Britain should be in the European Union.”

When pressed on whether he was open to the idea of a new party, he replied: “We shouldn’t put any construct or constraint on what might happen next. People could come to us, they could set up another party, who knows. But there needs to be a realignment – otherwise we’ll be left with a Tory government forever.”

In today’s Sunday Times (£), Paddy Ashdown has floated the idea of a progressive movement, talking about how political parties have failed the public:

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LDVideo: Paddy: Don’t let other people determine your future

In a video for the European Movement, of which he is President, Paddy Ashdown urges people to make sure they vote, and vote Remain tomorrow.

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Paddy: Pooling sovereignty with our friends does not diminish our sovereignty, it increases it

Yesterday, Paddy Ashdown made a speech about Britain’s place in the world. You can watch it here. He tells a story at the very end, that’s quite chilling, about the hideously barbaric human rights abuses in the Balkans and his first meeting with war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

Here’s the text:

A senior German Minister said to me the other day “Whenever I sit down in a room to negotiate with my British colleagues in a European meeting, their first question is always the same – which way to the Exit? You Brits spend so much time trying to find the way out, that you never have the time to build the alliances which are there to be built, to succeed. But now I realise, you would rather go, then win.”

Exactly so!

Canning and Castlereagh would be spinning in their graves.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard Liam Fox on Newsnight go one further. I think I quote him precisely, for I wrote it down at the time: “If we leave, we will bring the EU to its senses”.

Leaving aside the unreality of that statement – as though, the morning after a Brexit vote, millions of European citizens would sit up startled in their beds and say to themselves “Oh heavens! the Brits have left. Now we must come to our senses”.

Leaving aside, the age-old British arrogance about our place in Europe, which lies behind that statement.

Leaving aside also what it tells us of the attitude of senior Brexiteer Tories in this Government, to negotiations with their European partners.

Leaving all these things aside, as an expression of the isolationist mind set of the Brexiteers Dr Fox’s belief that “if we leave the Europeans will come to their senses” must rank alongside the famous Times headline – “fog in Channel, Continent isolated” -.

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Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown pay eloquent tribute to David Rendel

On BBC Radio Berkshire’s Andrew Peach show this morning there was a great tribute to David Rendel. Andrew Peach said some touching words about the many times he interviewed David. He then played a superb clip of David in full “fighting form” defending the Newbury by-pass at its 20th anniversary in January. Then Tim and Paddy came on the line and paid superb, eloquent tributes to David.

It really is a great 15 minutes of radio. You can listen to it here on BBC iPlayer at 1′ 17″.

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David Rendel 1949-2016

David Rendel on Newbury Town Hall steps - Some rights reserved  by Martin TodAs we reported earlier, former Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel has died aged 67.

David was born in 1949 in Athens, Greece. His father was a foreign correspondent for The Times, and he was a great-grandson of civil engineer Sir Alexander Meadows Rendel, and a great-great-nephew of Liberal MP Stuart Rendel, the first Baron Rendel, a benefactor of William Gladstone, as noted in Roy Jenkins’ book “Gladstone: A Biography”.

David was educated first at Horris Hill school, Newtown, Hampshire, and then as a scholar at Eton College. He spent 14 months as a volunteer teacher in Cameroon and Uganda with Voluntary Service Overseas. Afterwards he went to Magdalen College and St Cross College, Oxford where he gained a degree in Physics and Philosophy and rowed in the record-breaking Boat Race crew of 1974.

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Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown pay tribute to David Rendel

David Rendel on Newbury Town Hall steps - Some rights reserved  by Martin TodPaying tribute to David Rendel, former Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury who passed away last night, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

I am hugely saddened by the loss of David Rendel. He was a committed, selfless individual who I will remember particularly for his unyielding campaigning over so many years. I will miss him.

He won a stunning by-election victory in Newbury where he and his team showed the Liberal Democrats had the fight and passion to deliver a fantastic result in a challenging political climate. It was inspirational then, and is inspirational today as Liberal Democrats fight to rebuild.

His continuing work with the party, standing again as a candidate in the 2010 and 2015 elections, and serving on the party’s Federal Executive typified the resilience, commitment and resolve with which he approached politics.

He was a friend and colleague who I know will be sorely missed by his friends, family and the party.

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Under Hitler, Europeans were killing each other; now they are arguing over Eurovision

 

Tim Farron has strongly condemned Boris Johnson’s extraordinary comparison of the EU with Hitler.

Tim said:

Under Hitler, Europeans were killing each other, now they are arguing over Eurovision.

The European Union is what happens when countries seek to learn from the past and work together. Boris Johnson’s latest intervention is what happens when people refuse to learn the lessons of the past and seek to spread discord by inventing conspiracies.

The EU has helped secure peace; Hitler destroyed peace and killed millions of innocent people. It is extraordinary that anyone even needs to point this out to him.

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Let’s express the passionate commitment of our united party

‘Divided parties don’t win elections.’ Those were the words of newly-elected London mayor Sadiq Khan, recorded in Saturday’s Guardian (14.05), asking his Labour Party for unity. Of course, if true the saying should equally apply to today’s Conservative Party, with its bitter infighting even at Cabinet level. Liberal Democrats can offer a saying arguably more telling – ‘A small party can help a divided major party form a governing coalition.’ A year after the Coalition Government ended, the road to 2020 may lie wide open.

We are a small party now, but we are not a minor party. Unlike other small parties we have many hundreds of councillors in England, with 45 more elected this month as our Fightback kicks in, and we have a voice and an impact beyond our eight MPs and our cohorts in the House of Lords. Liberalism has a proud history of almost 170 years of progressive service to the British people, reaching its latest peak with five years of shared power within the Coalition.

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Paddy slams Tory plans for the BBC

The Huffington Post reports what it describes as Paddy’s “blazing rant” about the Tories’ plans for the BBC. To be fair, they have probably never witnessed or been on the receiving end of an actual Paddy rant. This is mild in comparison. However, his comments were certainly robust and there is an audio clip of them on the report.

He told audience members at Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions’ that were the Conservatives still in coalition with his party they would “never have gotten away” with changing the BBC’s governance rules that meant they could appoint the new executive’s Chair and deputy.

Ashdown warned that letting the government oversee the two most important positions would risk compromising on the BBC’s impartiality.

To rapturous applause, he argued: “The BBC is listened to with respect all the way round the world because it is known to be impartial, that’s why it has the standing that it does.

“But the BBC should be run independently and not by the government and I can tell you very straightforwardly if we Lib Dems had stayed in they’d have never got away with putting a board in there, many of whom – slightly less than 50% – are going to be appointed by the government.

“I’m with Norman Fowler, the ex-Chairman of the Conservative party, who said none of them should be appointed by the government – they should all be independent…

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Farron and Paddy condemn Boris’s Hitler comments

When you fall foul of Godwin’s Law by bringing Hitler into a conversation, you have to expect to be criticised. Boris Johnson isn’t stupid. Far from it. He was trying to get those two words resounding in people’s heads. It doesn’t matter that he refined his comments in the interview. The headlines turbo-boost the poison dripping from the Brexiteers in their highly emotive campaign. They play on people’s fears and suggest that leaving the EU would solve all our problems.

Both Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown have been quick to resoundingly condemn Boris’s comments. Tim said:

Under Hitler, Europeans were killing each other, now they are arguing over Eurovision.

The European Union is what happens when countries seek to learn from the past and work together. Boris Johnson’s latest intervention is what happens when people refuse to learn the lessons of the past and seek to spread discord by inventing conspiracies.

The EU has helped secure peace; Hitler destroyed peace and killed millions of innocent people. It is extraordinary that anyone even needs to point this out to him.

While Paddy tweeted:

They are right, but we need more proactive, positive commentary from them too:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 23 Comments

Paddy: Dishonouring service of Afghan interpreters is our worst act of shame

Paddy Ashdown condemned the Government after an Afghan interpreter, Nangyalai Dawoodzai, who had to leave his country after spending 3 years helping the British forces for, killed himself after being told his application for asylum in the UK had failed and he would be returned to Italy, the first European country he had arrived in.

From the Guardian:

The 29-year-old, who paid people smugglers to reach the UK, was told his request for asylum in Britain had been rejected when it was found he had been fingerprinted in Italy on arrival in Europe, according to the Daily Mail.

Under the EU’s Dublin regulation, aimed at preventing multiple asylum claims by individuals, Dawoodzai had to pursue his claim in the first country he applied in.

Faced with being sent back to Italy to claim political asylum there he killed himself, a fellow translator told the newspaper.

Paddy, who has long campaigned for these interpreters to be allowed to settle here, was understandably furious.

Lord Ashdown, who has championed the cause of Afghan war interpreters for years, said their treatment was scandalous.

It wrenches your heart out sideways. Here is a man who served in Helmand, probably on the frontline, who did it day in and day out for British troops, no going back home every six months, whose family were not tucked away safe but was in the community.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

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:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 29 Comments

Paddy Ashdown gets stuck into EU Referendum debate

There are few people who understand how the world works better than our Paddy. He really gets how global power structures are changing and how vital it is that countries with liberal values work together, so it’s no surprise that he really wants us to vote to stay in the EU for our own and for international good.

I’m not quite sure why he’s chosen a Sunday afternoon in the Easter holidays to wade into the fray afresh with a cheeky tweet, but you can’t really argue with him on this.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments
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