Interview with Paddy Ashdown

Iain Dale, the Tory we all love to hate, has transcribed a long interview he did with Paddy Ashdown on behalf of Total Politics magazine.

A brief extract follows after the break, and the full interview is available over at Total Politics. (Aargh! Columns?! On a website?!)

Paddy is currently also promoting his book, “A fortunate life” – and if you buy it from Amazon using the link on the side, the party gets a little percentage of your spend, at no extra cost to you.

ID: Have you found the role of ex Leader rather trying? You have generally resisted temptation to make any intervention.

PA: There are three kinds of ex leaders. Those who say ‘I’ve been a brilliant general and to prove as much I will wreck things before I go and throw in hand grenades afterwards’. They think what they are doing is improving their standing as leader but they almost always diminish it. I fear that happened to Margaret [Thatcher]. The second type is ‘Thanks very much, I had a great time, I’m off to do my garden, please don’t trouble me again’. The third is ‘I’m off to do my garden, call me when you need me’. That’s what I have tried to be. I have tried to be for Charles, Ming and Nick the same kind of leader as David Steel was for me. He was always available when I needed him. I could always ring him up and say, David, ‘I need a comment from you; I really need to win this battle’. He would always come out and do it and that’s what I do too. Being a model ex leader is also part of being a leader.

ID: How do you think the LibDem membership views Paddy Ashdown ten years on?

PA: Probably more kindly than they once did. People often asked me why did I stand down? The truth is I was getting grumpy with them, they were getting grumpy with me. Perhaps the party has been lucky in that it gets the leaders it needs at the time it needs them. It would not have been a good thing if I had stayed on. I would have almost certainly tried to persuade them that the position they took on the Iraq War was wrong, and I would have found myself at loggerheads with the party and have had to resign. I wrote Blair a private letter a week before the invasion and said ‘I think you’re right’. With the benefit of hindsight that looks like a mistake. The war was not the problem. I personally think the war was probably justified – still. It was over quickly. It was a success. It was what happened afterwards that was the problem. That does not excuse me very much because the truth is that I, of all people, should have known the war wasn’t the problem but our complete failure to prepare for what happened afterwards was. I should have spotted that and made more of it at the time. I believed the Weapons of Mass Destruction stuff and maybe I shouldn’t have. History will bless this with a slightly different view from the one we see at present.


Stop executions of gay Iraqis

Iraqi-LGBT reports that the administration in Iraq is about to begin executing gay Iraqis.

Urgent action is needed to halt the execution of 128 prisoners on death row in Iraq. Many of those awaiting execution were convicted for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality, according to IRAQI-LGBT, a UK based organisation of Iraqis supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Iraq.

According to Ali Hili of IRAQI-LGBT, the Iraqi authorities plan to start executing them in batches of 20 from this week.

IRAQI-LGBT urgently requests that the UK Government, Human Rights Groups and the United Nations Human Rights Commission intervene with due speed to prevent this tragic miscarriage of justice from going ahead.

Earlier in the month, officials working in the UK Borders Agency advised a gay Iraqi that they would be returning him to Iraq.

Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrats’ housing spokeswoman, who is the Iraqi’s MP, is perplexed by a recommendation from the UKBA that the Iraqi conduct his relationships in private.

The document says: “Even if your client’s homosexuality were to be established it is viewed that it would be possible for your client to conduct such relationships in private on his return to Iraq. This would allow your client to express his sexuality, albeit in a more limited way than he could do elsewhere.”

Teather, the MP for Brent East, said: “Immigration ministers need to show some humanity. If this deportation goes ahead there is a terrible risk that this man will be killed. How can we possibly claim to be a country that values human rights if we are willing to endanger a life in this way?”

Bristol council candidate killed in car crash

News reaches the voice that a talented local campaigner died last week when his car hit a tree.

A man who died in a car crash in Bristol has been named locally as community figure and Liberal Democrat candidate for Horfield – Tony Lewis.

Mr Lewis, aged 48, of Rodbourne Road, Manor Farm, was involved in an accident in Pen Park Road, Southmead, just after 6.10pm on Tuesday.

As reported by the Bristol Post, his Renault Clio hit a tree and a parked car.

Mr Lewis, who was also chairman of Manor Farm Action Group, has been described by his colleagues as a “champion for his community”.

Councillor Barbara Janke, leader of Liberal Democrat Group said: “Tony will be a sad loss to Liberal Democrats in Bristol.

“We all held him in high regard for his dedication and commitment to his local area and to Bristol. “We all will miss him as a valued colleague and a fighter for local democracy. We send his family and loved ones our sympathy at this sad time.”

Aunty examines Wikipedia

An interesting piece on the BBC website examines Wikipedia for accuracy

After a slightly outrageous start, the piece settles down into a reasonably balanced look at the internet’s famous anyone-can-edit encyclopaedia.

And whilst errors remain, by and large the biggest mistakes are corrected reasonably quickly, and intentional vandalism overturned almost immediately.

Of particular note to Liberal Democrats will be bizarre quotes about Nick Clegg – now removed. There’s also a long and intriguing section about Martin Horwood MP’s entry on the site:

Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood was alarmed to discover his Wikipedia entry, which in keeping with the conventions of the site was not written by him, had been altered in a way he believed would harm his chances of retaining his seat.

Goodness, whatever was said?

And finally, this article came to our attention because it quotes one of the Team:

Mark Pack, the Liberal Democrats’ internet guru, argues that the site had a much better track record than most newspapers, when it comes to corrections.
“Wikipedia is probably more prone to errors than other sources, but it is also much more prone to correcting errors,” he says.
But he adds: “There is a tendency to only see it as acceptable to remove information if it is factually incorrect or extremely trivial.”

UPDATE: Via the medium of Twitter (naturally) we learn the views of Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales:

@markpack good quote in the bbc story – you are right about the strengths – and weaknesses of wikipedia bios