The Ashdown method: MP in 14 steps

How do you become an MP?

MP also stands for Military Precision, so it’s no surprise that Paddy Ashdown’s campaign to become MP for Yeovil was long on discipline and short on creature comforts.

The Guardian Politics Blog reviews Ashdown’s autobiography A Fortunate Life, or at least chapter 10 of it:

If you want to become MP you should get a safe seat. But if that doesn’t happen, and your only option is to campaign in a constituency where your party doesn’t seem to have much chance of winning, then you should definitely take some inspiration from the remarkable story in chapter 10 of Paddy Ashdown’s autobiography, A Fortunate Life.

Ashdown was enjoying a successful career as a diplomat (and spy) when, in the mid-1970s, he was afflicted by the desire to become an MP. Nothing particularly unusual about that. But Ashdown wanted to be a Liberal MP, and he wanted to represent Yeovil, a seat where the Liberals were third in the October 1974 election, more than 7,000 votes behind the Tories, who had held the constituency for most of the 20th century. Any normal aspiring MP would have given it a wide berth. But Ashdown gave up his Geneva-based job, moved to Yeovil in 1976 and set to work. He was eventually elected to the Commons in 1983. Chapter 10, which describes how he got there, is the longest chapter in his book and the best description of a successful grassroots campaign I’ve read in any British political biography.

How did he do it? See here for the Guardian’s précis (including the roles of technology, rhubarb wine and “Clarissa”); you can also order the book here.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Books.


  • How sad is that.

  • That is a twenty year old recipe book. It is about how he achieved it then, without exposing too much.

    Parliamentary candidates today have to disclose their attitude on national issues. Openness is good.

  • ‘He was so worried about being sued that he put his assets into his wife’s name.’

    I suppose this just confirms so much about his character,did Ashdown ever achieve anything?

  • Now Jim, where is the list of anti- gay MEPs in the Euro Liberal group?

  • Terry Gilbert 5th Jul '09 - 11:12am

    I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, Patrick, but the fact that we have 10 times more MPs that when the Tories last took power from a shambolic Labour govt in 1979 is in no small measure down to him. We have since struggled to emulate his ‘great leap forward’ of ’97, to 46 MPs. But the Tories will now struggle to get an overall majority. Thank goodness.

  • There seems to be some kind of private argument going on at the start of these comments?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Helen Dudden
    If a seat can be bought in the House of Lords, where is the value of that seat? I've been to Westminster on several occasions and always been checked on the...
  • David Evans
    Jeff, you say "Perhaps not, but it is unreasonable to [seek a pay increase that compensates for the effect of inflation] and retain absurdly archaic working pra...
  • Chris Moore
    @Peter Martin: An economically and mathematically challenged individual might conclude from your intervention that UK GDP per capita was higher in 2007 - 50k...
  • John Medway
    Thanks all for your comments. @William Francis - Yes, although GDP isn't in my view "almost everything", it still has its uses. A precipitate fall in GDP wou...
  • expats
    ......Johnson and Shapps pretend they can’t end the rail strikes..That’s nonsense.. Well our own Munira Wilson seems to have her own ideas (unless she is...