Sunday, March 19, 2023

Did Ed Davey take a page from Paddy Ashdown's playbook?

So let me shout it, yet again: if you want to boost our economy, you have to repair our broken relationship with Europe.

Conference, you don’t need me to tell you what a disaster the Conservatives’ botched deal with Europe has been for our country. You see it every day in your communities: The businesses strangled by red tape. The farmers, fishers and factories, unable to sell to their customers on the continent. The empty shelves in local supermarkets. 

It’s why we campaigned against it. Why, when Boris Johnson brought his terrible deal to Parliament, when even Labour supported it, Liberal Democrats stood alone and voted against it.

And why now Liberal Democrats are the only ones with a real plan to fix Britain’s trade. To tear down the Conservatives’ trade barriers, rip up their red tape, and rebuild the ties of trust and friendship with our European neighbours.

I'm not sure about that "yet again": Ed Davey has been notably quiet on Europe. And there's nothing here that he couldn't or shouldn't have said when he became leader in 2020.

But I'm glad he said it today. The rapturous response in the hall tells you that this is what the party wanted to hear.

In fact, I suspect a deft piece of party management here.

I am reminded of my first Liberal Party Assembly at Bournemouth in 1984. Paddy Ashdown, the dashing new MP for Yeovil, had already made a name for himself by opposing the deployment of US cruise missiles in Britain.

But in the run up to the assembly there had been strong rumours that he had agreed a compromise position with the party establishment.

So when he rose in the hall to speak against cruise, there was an ecstatic reaction.

You can read about that assembly and the defence vote in the New York Times.

I am pleased to see that the Times report mentions Liberator, because Bournemouth 1984 was our finest hour. 

We were the lead item on the BBC evening news because, under the heading 'Should Steel go?', we had printed betting odds on who would become the next Liberal leader, along with a pithy description of each MP.

And the bit about 'Liberal delegates arriving in Bournemouth' was illustrated with footage of me and Stewart Rayment strolling along the sea front.

1 comment:

Noel Hadjimichael said...

The energy and electric atmosphere at the York conference was a build up over three days of solid and dependable outcomes. The machinery of internal debates was handled well. The robust clash between reform versus no reform over the nuclear deterrent was resolved by a vote in the room and online that was said to be four to one ... a clear mandate. The guaranteed income debate was done with vigour and our commitment to caring was unsurprisingly sound. Ed finished with a rallying call to be our "best" as Britons, liberals and reformers.