Industrial Strategy – Statement by Paddy Ashdown

The Industrial Strategy

Paddy Ashdown voice concerns about the absence of any commitment to Yeovil and appeals to Marcus Fysh MP to join in a joint campaign to persuade the Government to change its mind

“Sometimes it is silence that speaks loudest.

This Industrial Strategy mentions Airbus, Rolls Royce, Boeing, Bombardier Aerospace, GE Aviation ,GKN, Loughborough and Solihull. But it mentions neither helicopters or Yeovil once. Given the worries about preserving the UK’s stand alone ability to manufacture helicopters and the integrity of the Yeovil site I have repeatedly lobbied the Government to use the opportunity of the Industrial Strategy to state clearly the Government’s commitment to maintaining the full capacity to manufacture helicopters on the Yeovil site, the UK’s only stand alone helicopter manufacturing facility and as such a key part of the country’s aerospace industrial base. No such commitment is contained in this strategy paper. To say that this is disappointing would be an understatement. Like many others in the Yeovil community I feel let down and angry about this omission.

I am now informed that this is paper is being published for consultation only. But bitter and long experience has taught me what that means. What we have been looking for is not consultation, but influence on the Government by our local MP. It is inconceivable that, under the coalition when David Laws was our MP, a national Industrial Strategy like this would have been published without a clear commitment to preserve the full range of capacities of the Yeovil site.

I have repeatedly asked our MP Marcus Fysh to put aside politics and work with all the other political voices in Yeovil, including the Unions, to lobby the Government on a joint basis to provide this vital commitment for the future. He has repeatedly declined to do so. Instead of action, we have had only repeated announcements of re-cycled news. The absence of a clear commitment to preserving of the full capacities of the Yeovil site is a very serious omission. I appeal to Mr Fysh again join us in a joint lobbying exercise to persuade the Government to change its mind.”

Liberalism in an age of Trump

The Times – Red Box

The Trump era and liberalism
19 January 2016

The lessons of history are clear.

There has never been a successful government, a prosperous era, or a peaceful world that has not been based on liberal values. The opposite is true as well. If the world loses touch with these values then what follows is conflict, division and tyranny.

So it ought to worry us all that liberal values are now more endangered and under attack than at any time in my adult life.

Liberals – small l please note– believe not in the strong state, but the powerful citizen; we oppose equally centralised power, and the socialist notion of the supremacy of the mass. We believe in the free market, but as our servant not our master. We are internationalist and stand against protectionism, isolationism and nationalism. We celebrate diversity, not uniformity. We understand that the individual’s responsibility extends further than ourselves and our country to others beyond our borders and to future generations. We value the habit of compromise and depend upon the qualities of tolerance, compassion and respect for others.

I am struck – horrified actually – by the similarities between this age and the 1930s.

Then, after a depression and the failures of politics and government, there was a catastrophic collapse of confidence in the establishment, a fear that democracy wasn’t working and a hunger for the Government of strong men. Multilateralism, gave way to nationalism and isolation. Vulgarity trumped (no pun intended) decency. The harsh, ugly, voices were followed, while the counsels of reason fell on deaf ears. Many found it convenient to blame all our ills on the foreigner over the border and the stranger in our midst. Politicians found the extravagant lie, more tempting than the boring old nuanced truth. The rule was if you lie, tell a big one and tell it as often as you can. Stick it on a bus perhaps and drive it round the country.

I do not say that we are bound for the same destination as the 1930s. I cannot bring myself to believe that possible.

Nor do I claim that none of this is our fault.

I am much less interested in who is to blame, than what to do next.

The forces of the progressive centre in the 1930s were broken fractured, scattered and divided – and never got their act together. And so it is today.

Not all liberals are in the Liberal Democrats. There are many in other Parties – and many, many more who are as worried about what is happening as I am, but who do not wish to belong to any Party.

This last year, British politics abandoned the centre ground and spun away to the extremes. The Tories have moved onto territory indistinguishable from UKIP. For the first time in my life the official Labour Party makes no attempt to occupy the centre left, but is now proudly, avowedly 1950s style hard-line Socialist.

So what about those in the middle, where the true political centre of gravity of our country lies?

Hilaire Belloc has it perfectly:

The people in between
Looked underdone and harassed
And out of place and mean
And horribly embarrassed.

And, he might have added, scattered, dejected, lost and voiceless too.

Spare a thought for the lost tribes of Tory and Labour. What should those from the great Conservative tradition of internationalism do, now that their Party has abandoned them? What should those in Labour do, who believe in the free market now that their Party has explicitly rejected it?

What interests me most, however, is not the liberals, large l or small, inside formal politics, but the millions outside it.

The voiceless who found their voice in the Brexit and Trump elections were the left out and the left behind. They now have their voice. And a powerful one it is, with Trump as US President.

The moderate, liberal progressive majority are now the new left out and left behind – the new voiceless.

The phenomenon that astonished us these last years is the way that the most powerful instrument for change has not been those inside politics, but outside it. It is people’s movements now, not political parties who bring down Governments, colonise old parties, invent new ones and elect Presidents.

But why do all the people’s movements have to be for the ugly things, rather than the good ones.

2016 was the year that terrified us all because of the destructive populist forces it unleashed. Could 2017 be the year which will amaze us because the moderate progressive liberal voice in our country makes itself heard at last?

On that question depends whether or not we can turn the tide of destructive populism that otherwise threatens to overwhelm us. It is now up to those in politics, whether small l or large L, to put aside their tribalism and work together to make that happen.

Yeovil Helicopters – Correspondence with MoD


Harriett Baldwin MP
Minister for Defence Procurement
Ministry of Defence,

Wednesday, 19 January 2017

Thank you for your letter of yesterday.

I am glad that you have now agreed that the AW159 tools and jigs will not be allowed to leave the Yeovil site for Poland unless and until there is a full in-depth study of the comparative costs of production on the two sites and that this will involve all relevant factors, such as the impact on the overheads of Leonardo’s Yeovil site, the costs both of transporting the tools and jigs to Poland and of transporting the assembled AW159 airframes back from Poland back to Yeovil for fitting out.

I am grateful to you for finally giving this undertaking which will, I know be welcomed, not just by the Leonardo workforce, but also by the Yeovil community at large. I also welcome this change of policy in favour of a proper competitive process, rather than repeating the procedure which applied when the Government foolishly gave the recent Apache order to the United States without any kind of tendering process.

One simple question. Given how much locally and nationally depends on this decision (not least because of what happened over the Apache order) I am sure you will agree with me that the Government should be as transparent about its forthcoming decision on the tools and jigs as possible. Of course I realise that the details of the relative costs which are incorporated into your decision cannot not be made public as they will be commercially confidential. But I hope you will be able, at the very least, to agree that, when you announce the decision, you will also make public the broad list of the factors which have been taken into account.

I would be most grateful if you would provide me with confirmation that you have no difficulty with publishing such a list at the appropriate time.

I have finally to express my surprise (and concern) that you have not been able to be more specific about the inclusion of a commitment to maintain a UK stand-alone ability to make helicopters, in the forthcoming and long awaited Industrial strategy. Given that our ability to make helicopters is a vital part of the nation’s aerospace industrial base, I am bewildered that you seem unable to give a clear answer to this crucial question at this late stage in the publication of the forthcoming White Paper. I am sure you will understand that the absence of such a
commitment, when the White Paper is finally published, will be treated with shock, even anger, in the Yeovil area and far beyond.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Paddy Ashdown





Mrs Mays speech 18 Jan 2017

Indy on-line
17 Jan 2017
Paddy Ashdown

So now at last we know what Mrs May has decided shall be our future in Europe – or rather out of it.

What she calls for is a fundamental break with our neighbours, our culture and our past of the kind which was never discussed during the referendum campaign.

Remember, when, time and again, the Brexiteers were asked what kind of Brexit they wanted? Time and again they couldn’t – or more accurately, wouldn’t – answer. Or, if they did, gave answers which were completely contradictory. Some said they wanted to stay in the Single Market; others demanded out; some proposed managed immigration; others insisted on none; some suggested a new trading relationship with the EU; others wanted to cut loose completely.

They would not tell us what we were voting for then; they should not be allowed to steal our votes for their prejudices now.

If ever there was a case for putting the deal that is finally made with the EU before the British people, Mrs May made it today.

Last week-end in Germany, Chancellor Hammond, blurted out the truth about the course Mrs May has chosen. Retain the closest economic links with the EU, he said, and Britain will remain a broadly European style nation. Cast off all our European moorings and head for the open sea, we risk having to turn ourselves into a low tax, no regulation, cheap labour, equivalent of Singapore. Then – among other things we have come to take for granted and enjoy in our country – we would say goodbye to work-place rights, the welfare state as we know it, policies to protect our environment and European style protections for our civil liberties. That Mrs May finds this prospect congenial should not come as surprise. As Home Secretary and Prime Minister it is she who has been the driving force behind the Snooper’s Charter, which the European Courts have rejected.

And to compensate for all this, we are offered in exchange a Michael Gove promise of a cosy relationship with Donald Trump and a TTIP style trade deal negotiated from a weak position.
Mr Trump is now limbering up for a trade war, not just with China, but with the EU as well. Presumably he will expect us to take his side against our old friends. Not the best climate to negotiate trade deals, you may think.

Maybe this is what the people of Britain want, too. But I doubt it.

Surely, before this Government is allowed to turn a narrow majority for leave into a swingeing mandate to re-name our country “Britapore” and paddle it out into the mid-Atlantic, we its poor benighted passengers, should be allowed a say?

Such a vote would not be to re-fight the in/out referendum. Those, like me, who campaigned for Remain must accept as gracefully as we can, that we lost. What we now have to decide, as a country, is what kind of relationship a Brexit Britain should retain with the European Union – in short, what kind of country we should now become. Mrs May has told us her vision. The question is do the people of Britain agree? Given the stark choices she has proposed at what she concedes is “a moment of great national change”, do they too not get the right to speak?
Brexiteers claim that “Leave” was a vote against an arrogant political elite; how ironic then that our country’s course is now to be determined by a leader who has not faced an election even in her own party, let alone the country. No second vote, no consultation, no detailed plan, no chance for Parliament amend or scrutinise, (unless the blessed Supreme Court Judges instruct otherwise). The people have spoken and are now to be dispensed with as “not wanted for the remainder of the voyage”. Conservative voters, along with the rest of us. What happened to the Tory manifesto promise of little more than eighteen months ago; “We say: yes to the Single Market”?

Sir Ivan Rogers’ recent resignation illuminated what many of us suspected – that Mrs May runs her Government like a Borgia court. All but her closest advisors are excluded (including the Civil Service); all voices that oppose her are unwelcome; the poisoners are sent out after any public dissenter; even the “hapless three” charged with the Ministerial responsibility for Brexit, are left squabbling outside the door. Are we really to leave the most important decision of our time to such a tiny, closed and venomous cabal?

What is at stake, following Mrs May’s speech, is nothing less than keeping Britain open, tolerant, united and planning a future based on engagement with our friends in Europe, rather than depending on the crumbs from Mr Trump’s table.

What started out as an act of democracy must not be allowed to end with a stitch-up for a plan we never voted for and a future we do not want.


Yeovil Helicopter jobs – 9 January 2017

Commenting this afternoon on the MoD announcement of “new orders” for the Wildcat helicopter, Paddy Ashdown said:

“I am grateful to Minister Baldwin for making the journey from London to make this announcement. Of course any and every new order is welcome, especially in the difficult post-Brexit climate. But unfortunately these are not new orders. They are recycled news from the time of the Coalition. As the MoD themselves admit in their Press Release, this announcement merely enacts the detail of the deal negotiated by David Laws in 2012.

The issue for the Government is not, will they recycle old jobs as new ones, but will they use the leverage they have through the ownership of Wildcat tooling and jigs to stop Yeovil losing jobs which will otherwise go to Poland in order preserve not just the long term viability of the Yeovil site, but also a key element of the national aerospace industrial base.?

Of course the decision of where this work goes must be made commercially. But the Government can and should demand that any Leonardo decision which affects UK jobs is based on a proper in depth study of the comparative costs of manufacturing these Wildcat parts in Yeovil and Poland. I do not understand why they will not insist on this.

The Government’s unwillingness to use the leverage they have to go every last mile to protect Yeovil jobs, makes their promise to protect UK jobs in the post-Brexit era, mere empty words. I hope they will change their mind on this before these jobs and skills are exported abroad. Yeovil’s technicians and engineers have, for a hundred years, provided world beating aircraft for our armed forces. They deserve better than this.”