Coffee House

Lib Dem conference: The significance of the Paddy Ashdown appointment

26 September 2012

8:00 PM

26 September 2012

8:00 PM

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 into that election.

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Ashdown’s appointment is also particularly interesting given that before the reshuffle, he urged Clegg to give David Laws a roving economic brief so that he had someone independent of the Treasury giving him advice on the economy. Friends say that Ashdown feels that Clegg has become too reliant on Danny Alexander, who is—according to his critics—too inclined to take the Treasury view on matters. It seems safe to assume that Ashdown’s appointment will see Laws, his successor as MP for Yeovil, become even more influential.

The leadership also hopes that having Ashdown in this role will reassure activists during what is bound to be a difficult campaign for the party. Ashdown’s media experience, and penchant for early rises, means that he should be able to handle six weeks of morning press conferences with greater ease than most.

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Show comments
  • dalai guevara

    Ashdown back with role, Bliar briefly back for his wisdom, John Major back for….oh let’s not go there. What this signifies is stagnation.

  • http://twitter.com/bbcgoogle Rockin Ron

    So let’s see what we have so far:
    2015 Election chief – Paddy Ashdown, an adulterer
    Party Leader – Nick Clegg – a self confessed pledge breaker
    Former Party leader – Charles Kennedy – a recovering alcoholic
    Major party donor – Michael Brown – convicted fraudster
    Leading light – David Laws – an expenses fiddler
    Vince Cable – ready to abandon coalition and join forces with Labour
    Good luck with that 2015 campaign then.

  • sir_graphus

    The return of Ashdown means, even accounting for the lack of talent in the Liberal party, that Clegg cannot put his own man in charge of the election campaign. It also means there’s a senior figure at the top of the party to oversee the transition of the leadership from Clegg to the new man.
    All I want from this process is that the PM at the time, be it Cameron or Milliband, does not make Clegg and EU commissioner.

  • Noa

    Cameron’s ridiculous posturings were evaluated long before:-

    “…All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school….
    …And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”.

    We are witnesses to that transition from sixth to seventh stage.

    • Andy Car Park

      Seven ages: first puking and mewling,
      Then very pissed off with one’s schooling,
      Then f**ks and then fights,
      Then judging chaps’ rights,
      Then sitting in slippers, then drooling.

      Robert Conquest

  • Douglas Carter

    Masterful really. What a joined-up concept for Clegg’s speech.
    …’There’s no going back to the past’… he said. And to prove it heee…eers PADDY ASHDOWN to mastermind the 2015 campaign!!

  • strapworld

    A masterful appointment. It will ensure the Lib Dems finish behind the Greens and Ukip.
    The man bores for Britain. IF he is so good why is he no longer the leader? Could it be that he is, like Charlie boy and Ming, a loser?
    Good news for the conservatives. It means that they may get an overall majority if they ditch Cameron.

  • Malfleur

    A party which whoops is a party of dupes.

  • Daniel Maris

    Ashdown at least communicates a vigorous enjoyment taken in leadership – a bit like Mrs. T in that respect. Same can’t be said of Clegg or Miliband for instance. Cameron simply expects assumes leadership is his role.

    I think Ashdown is wrong for all the wrong reasons, but given where they are now it’s not a bad appointment.

    • telemachus

      You have a point comparing Paddy with She
      Both inspire fierce loyalty in the aflicted but Paddy’s instincts are towards reasonableness

  • In2minds

    Slipped Disqus?

  • Hexhamgeezer

    The appointment of Pantsdown is of infinitesmally small significance to the electorate. What possible tactics or policy is he likely to introduce that will even maintain the Lib Dems representation in Parliament?
    It pleases the blue rinse element of the party but whether front or back of house Ashdown has nothing to offer.

  • http://www.coffeehousewall.co.uk/ Coffeehousewall

    Why does Disqus say there are 7 comments on this thread, and I read them, and now there are only 3?

    • james102

      I think it is the delay I noted above. Maybe it gives the
      mods time to check. Not unreasonable but it should be made clear.

      By the way, I see the Shadow foreign secretary, Douglas
      Alexander, is warning in the Evening Standard that Boris Johnson could be the
      leader they face in the next election not Cameron.

      But how do the Conservatives get rid of Cameron? What can
      they offer him? Hardly an EU Commissioner’s job as the chances are we won’t be
      full members for much longer. I suppose Clegg and Kinnock’s pensions are safe
      in that eventuality?

      • Malfleur

        “What can they offer him?”

        How about something in PR?

        • James102

          He does not seem very good at that, I think a career move is called for. Nothing to do with strategic thinking or image projection.
          Let’s see how he gets on the Letterman Show—Show Business may have something for him now that Boris Johnson is concentrating on other things.

    • james102

      I think it is the delay I noted above. Maybe it gives the
      mods time to check. Not unreasonable but it should be made clear.

      By the way, I see the Shadow foreign secretary, Douglas
      Alexander, is warning in the Evening Standard that Boris Johnson could be the
      leader they face in the next election not Cameron.

      But how do the Conservatives get rid of Cameron? What can
      they offer him? Hardly an EU Commissioner’s job as the chances are we won’t be
      full members for much longer. I suppose Clegg and Kinnock’s pensions are safe
      in that eventuality?

  • AnotherDaveB

    I would hope that the voters of Yeovil will take note of Mr Laws post-2010-election expenses revelations, and send a different MP to Westminster in 2015.

  • james102

    My last post seems to have disappeared– again—is it about
    moderating comments?—no it is back.

    Anyway I think the lesson is that the LibDems are
    finished.Ukip will fill the protest position that has been left but will they
    get enough votes in any constituency to win seats? They will certainly deprive
    the Conservatives of votes as unlike Labour supporters Conservative voters will
    not just abstain.

    The situation in Spain looks like it will add to the EU’s
    problems so that will also add grist to Ukip’s mill. Cameron and the Toffs
    (sounds like a 60s Pop Group) are a liability but how do the Conservatives get
    rid of them?

  • Nicholas

    Ashdown puts the c-o-n-t in constipation. One of QT’s Greatest Living Bores. He and Shirley Williams ought to get married and start an insomniacs clinic where they take turns boring people to sleep.

    • Wessex Man

      If you think he is just a bore you are sadly mis-informed, he’s a very unlikeable piece of work, a gift to the other parties.

      • Nicholas

        Just a bore? No. I didn’t use the word “just” in my comment. Clearly my first sentence was too subtle for you!

  • Heavy Petter

    If the return of Paddy Ashdown brings whoops from its supporters, then we are looking at a party in deep, deep shit.

  • UlyssesReturns

    The bland leading the blind.

    • Wessex Man

      If you think he is a bore you are sadly mistaken he is not very nice and a gift to the other parties.

      • telemachus

        Wessex
        As you would expect of an SBS commander brought up in Ireland.
        If Paddy had been in charge in 2010 the LibDems would never had got into bed with Labour.
        Overall he is a good thing but sadly 74 by the next election

  • james102

    Only someone from the military culture would be prepared to
    face such a catastrophic defeat out of loyalty. To quote the verdict on another
    mad example of leadership Clegg style:’C’est magnifique,mais n’est pas la
    guerre’ as their colonial masters would say.

  • james102

    Only someone from the military culture would be prepared to
    face such a catastrophic defeat out of loyalty. To quote the verdict on another
    mad example of leadership Clegg style:’C’est magnifique,mais n’est pas la
    guerre’ as their colonial masters would say.

    • Noa

      With his EU, MPs and state pensions, together with expenses and free stamps from the Lords stationery cupboard, but most of all his impenetrable mantle of invincible stupidity, why should he worry?

      • james102

        No he will not be worrying; he is an Ulsterman, they don’t
        do a lot of worrying as they know God is an Ulsterman and on their side. (That
        applies to both sectarian divisions of the tribe)

    • Noa

      With his EU, MPs and state pensions, together with expenses and free stamps from the Lords stationery cupboard, but most of all his impenetrable mantle of invincible stupidity, why should he worry?

    • Andy Car Park

      You are dead right. I was pondering a comparison with the 7th Earl of Cardigan when I read your post. Old Cardigan wasn’t averse to sporting his kecks round his ankles either.

  • In2minds

    Ashdown back, a gift to UKIP!

    • telemachus

      How so?
      Ashdown has instinctive fellow feeling with UKIP types

  • TomTom

    Paddy Ashdown to lead rout……..

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