Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Paddy Ashdown said about winning Yeovil in 1983 - in 1983

Liberal Democrat Voice tells us that a chapter of Paddy Ashdown’s bestselling autobiography A Fortunate Life has been released as a free download.

Helen Duffett writes there:
It’s called 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil, and as I wrote in 2009: 
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. 
If you haven’t packed a book for the train to Conference yet, 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil is vital reading for all Liberal Democrat campaigners. And as is typical of the Chair of the Party’s 2015 General Election campaign, Paddy has plenty to inspire and inform, as well as entertain.
I can beat that. I can tell you what Paddy Ashdown said about winning Yeovil in 1983 in 1983.

A rummage in a dusty cupboard produces Liberator 135, which was the issue on sale at the Liberal Party's 1983 Assembly in Harrogate.

My name is not listed among the editorial collective, but I am pretty sure this is the first issue of the magazine I was involved with. The paste up took place at the party's offices at the National Liberal Club, and I was young and radical and out of my head on Cow Gum and cheap Italian Letraset.

Liberator 135 contains an interview with Paddy Ashdown, the newly elected MP for Yeovil, by Alan Leaman. And here is an extract...
What was the impact of the Alliance? 
In the early days it was bad. The message of the Alliance got across very imperfectly to people in my constituency. Where Liberals had captured ground the advent of the Alliance has actually caused them to lose votes. I reckon the net loss (and we could measure the same wards in 1979/80/81/82/83) was two per cent, maybe three. 
There were two factors involved. First of all was the unpopularity of Roy Jenkins. We found that time after time on the doorstep, quite unjustifiably, but I suspect him to be the most unpopular British politician after Tony Benn. It was quite irrational and very unfair, but it was there, starkly during the general election. 
The second is that those largely Labour voters who we had won over somehow perceived the Alliance as going halfway back to Labour. Nobody actually said that to me, but that's my rationalisaton. That was a definite factor and one of the reasons why we played a high profile Liberal campaign: we did mention the Alliance but we put ourselves forward as Liberals.
In the general election I suspect we came out even in the end, because while it was losing votes in the first two weeks of the campaign, as soon as we started to lift in the opinion polls those reservations suddenly vanished. In the last week of the campaign we had nobody saying they were worried about the Alliance. By the time of polling day it was nil benefit, nil loss.
Liberator is still going strong, of course, and these days even has an electric blog. I miss the Cow Gum though.

No comments: