Paddy ashdown

Paddy Ashdown’s magical thinking

The dog days of July probably aren’t the best time to launch a new political movement, but then the people who campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum aren’t known for their media savvy. Consequently, Paddy Ashdown made a surprise appearance on Marr last Sunday to announce the creation of More United, a ‘tech-driven political start-up’ that takes its name from a phrase the late Jo Cox MP used in her maiden speech: ‘We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’ More United’s website doesn’t explicitly say that the organisation’s raison d’être is to overturn the result of the

Friday caption contest: the three Europhiles

Although Jeremy Corbyn has been slow to get involved with the EU campaign, David Cameron is still keen to show the public the Remain side has cross-party support. So, what better way to prove this than a photo opp with Labour’s Neil Kinnock and Liberal Democrat Paddy Ashdown. Mr S welcomes your caption suggestions for the photo of the three Europhiles. The winner will be revealed on Monday. Update: … and the winner is Alun Morris for coming up with the caption: ‘celebrity threesome fight losing battle to prevent the public knowing the truth’.

Channel 4’s The Coalition reviewed: heroically free of cynicism

In a late schedule change, Channel 4’s Coalition was shifted from Thursday to Saturday to make room for Jeremy Paxman interviewing the party leaders. With most dramas, that would mean I’d have to issue the sternest of spoiler alerts for anybody reading before the programme goes out. In this case, though, you know the story already — because Coalition was a dramatisation of what happened in Westminster in the days after the last general election. Fortunately, one of the programme’s many qualities was its Day of the Jackal ability to keep us gripped even though we were always aware of the outcome — largely by reminding us that the characters

Paddy Ashdown slaps down Tim Farron: ‘Judgement is not his strong suit’

It seems Tim Farron has rather annoyed his senior Lib Dem colleagues with his quite naked desire to become party leader. After the ambitious MP said that the Lib Dems got 2/10 for the way they’d handled the Coalition, he received a pretty hefty slap down from Lord Ashdown on this morning’s Pienaar’s Politics on Radio 5Live. The Lib Dem General Election campaign chair didn’t bother sending veiled messages to Farron about criticising the party leadership and saying that the Lib Dems are ‘dead’. Instead, he just verbally roughed up Farron in the way Farron has been roughing up his own party leadership. ‘His well-known ambition would be better served with

The damning, shocking, depressing life of Jeremy Thorpe

Jeremy Thorpe by Michael Bloch Little, Brown, pp.606, £25 The back story of Michael Bloch’s biography of Jeremy Thorpe is a story in itself.  The book’s appearance, in the same month as its subject’s death, is only possible because it has been on ice for many years. In the 1990s the author had numerous meetings with the former Liberal party leader and gained access to many of his circle with a view to writing a vaguely official biography. But after reading a draft in the 1990s Thorpe said words to the effect of ‘over my dead body’, and this took longer to come about than expected. Thorpe died last month at

Knee-jerkers vs knee-tremblers

A little joke by Paddy, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, turned upon something to be shunned. Conservative ministers, he said, had ‘indulged in a spasm of knee-jerking which would have made even St Vitus feel concerned’. He has, I think, got his spasms in a twist. Apart from saying ‘Aaah’, the cartoon task for a patient at the doctor’s is to cross a leg for it to be hit with a little hammer. ‘Striking the tendon below the patella gives rise to a sudden extension of the leg, known as the knee-jerk,’ wrote the physiologist Sir Michael Foster in 1890. He was a busy man, sitting on committees to rid Victorian

Ashdown: We’re ‘a left wing party’ but we’ll do a deal with whoever the voters tell us to

A rather irritable Paddy Ashdown has just told Andrew Neil that the Lib Democrats are ‘a left-wing party’ but that their next coalition would be determined by the voters. Ashdown, whose chairing the Lib Dem election campaign, claimed that it simply wasn’t accurate to say that Lib Dems had a preference for who they’d like as their coalition partner. This is, to put it mildly, a dubious statement and Ashdown did feel the need to concede that senior Lib Dems did have ‘private likes and dislikes’. But he claimed that this wouldn’t influence their decision about who to go into government with. Ashdown’s aggressive approach to this question is designed

Lib Dem conference: The significance of the Paddy Ashdown appointment

The only line of Nick Clegg’s speech that drew whoops from the hall was the announcement that Paddy Ashdown was returning to run the 2015 general election campaign. The enthusiasm was testament to the affection that the grassroots of the party still have for their former leader. The appointment tells us several intriguing things about the internal state of the Liberal Democrats. That Clegg felt the need to announce who was running the next election campaign at this conference, more than two years out from the date of the next general election, shows he’s keen to do everything he can to demonstrate that he is going to lead the party

Lib Dems in Brighton: the prattling of the pointless

Are there any words in the English language more soporific or depressing than: ‘Liberal Democrat Party Conference’? My paucity of blogs in the last few days can be put down solely to this fact. Even the many fascinating and disturbing things occurring in the world are somehow made damp by the knowledge that this annual general meeting of the bogus is going on. I suppose it comes down to one thing in particular. There is simply no purpose in the Liberal Democrats. There never has been. It is just a collection of people who for various reasons – understandable dislike of the other parties, hilarious opportunism or simple ignorance –

Lib Dem conference: Paddy Ashdown hits out at opinion polls, Tories and pessimism

Polls don’t and shouldn’t matter to Liberal Democrats, so says Paddy Ashdown. The ex-Lib Dem leader managed to whip activists into a yellow-tinged frenzy this afternoon at a packed out polling discussion. Ashdown refuted that his party has been smothered with an ‘atmosphere of political gloom’ and ordered the rank and file to ‘ignore these polls and get on with the politics’. However, an overview of Times/Populus polling on voting intentions presented at the discussion highlighted how the Lib Dems’ fortunes have changed since the election: Ashdown insisted this is nothing to worry about, citing Margaret Thatcher as an occasionally unpopular leader who was still able to win elections. With

The Lib Dems jostle for airtime

Yep, they’re inescapable, those Lib Dems. Even when the airwaves are dominated by Rupert Murdoch and Tom Watson, they’re there in the background, quietly adding to the day’s pile of political news. We’ve got Ken Livingstone making a pitch for their votes in the London Mayor’s contest, for instance. And we’ve also got Nick Clegg on what seems like every radio show on air, giving his account of why folk should be Lib Dem voters in the first place. There have been two more significant scraps of LibDemmery than those, though. The first came in one of Clegg’s radio appearances, when he said that he isn’t ‘hung up’ on who


There are Lib Dems everywhere today, CoffeeHousers, and they’re differentiating like crazy. We had Nick Clegg himself on the Andrew Marr show earlier, waxing lukewarm about Boris Island, and there have been moments of assertiveness from his party colleagues as well. Here’s a quick round-up: 1) Chris Huhne. The embattled energy minister hasn’t taken to the airwaves today, but he is omnipresent nonetheless. A good portion of Clegg’s Marr appearance was devoted to him, with the Deputy Prime Minister stressing that ‘he has been crystal clear that he denies any wrong doing’ — but not quashing the idea that Huhne would lose his job if those denials turn out to

The coalition’s latest anxiety attack

It is starting to feel like the build-up to the AV referendum again, if not worse. No longer the casual bonhomie of the coalition’s early days, but a great show of mutual distrust and loathing between the Lib Dems and Tories. There was Nick Clegg’s interview on the Marr Show earlier, of course, which James has already blogged about. There are rumours that Vince Cable is set to quit. And there is also Paddy Ashdown’s caustic article in the Observer, which he has followed by attacking, Major style, the Tory ‘bastards’ on Sky this morning. For their part, many of those ‘bastards’ are looking on at the Lib Dems’ pain

Are the Lib Dems pro-EU?

This might seem a very odd question. A pro-EU position is part of the party’s internationalist DNA. Listen to any EU-related speech by the likes of Nick Clegg or Paddy Ashdown and heartfelt support for the European project is apparent. The Liberal Democrats have also made a virtue of reining in Tory euroscepticism, for example rejecting a call for repatriation of powers in the Coalition Agreement. The Deputy Prime Minister remains, in private and public, pro-EU. And to many activists and MPs, the party’s European stance is what makes it different to the Tories – and is the reason why they are Lib Dems. They see in Tory euroscepticism a

The Lib Dems warn the Tories over Europe

The Lib Dems have just had a brief Q&A on foreign affairs. Paddy Ashdown and defence minister Nick Harvey gave staunch their support to the Afghan Mission, but confessed to having misgivings. Ashdown described the Bush administration’s strategy as an “absolute model of how not to intervene, both militarily and politically”. This failure, Ashdown said, ensured that a “victor’s peace” is now beyond NATO’s grasp. Harvey admitted that NATO’s political progress in Afghanistan remained “very slow” despite ISAF’s recent military success; this is scarcely surprising given the litany of bombings and assassinations over the course of the summer. The debate touched on the need to forge new trade relationships and

It’s all over bar the counting

The polls have now closed tonight. But there’s no exit poll and no results are expected for a few hours yet. Indeed, I’m almost tempted to say we could do with some of those much talked about electronic counting machines. We are, though, already seeing recriminations over the AV vote. Paddy Ashdown, who is in very fiery form on Question Time, has already told The Guardian that ‘So far the coalition has been lubricrated by a large element of goodwill and trust. It is not any longer.’ In an attempt to bring the temperature down, a no gloating order has come down from Tory high command. Expect to hear an