Leonardo Baldwin July 2017

Harriett Baldwin MP

Minister for Defence Procurement

Ministry of Defence,





Wednesday, 16 November 2016




Thank you for finding time to meet with me yesterday to discuss the situation in Yeovil, following the GKN redundancies.


I was glad to hear of your work abroad to sell the AW159 Wildcat helicopter and to know that you believe this aircraft has wide market appeal in other countries.


But I am sure you will agree with me that it is vital that the benefit of the work and skill enhancement of these sales, if they are achieved, should benefit, not just Leonardo, but the Yeovil site and its workforce. You know my concerns on this matter, which I repeated to you in detail during our meeting. It seems to me that there is nothing in the Government’s Strategic Partnership Agreement with Leonardo which would in itself prevent Leonardo from effectively siphoning off technology assets and skills from Yeovil to Italy, while transferring Italian costs to the Yeovil site. I am, I should stress, NOT saying this is happening – only that the terms of the agreement as it stands means that it could happen – with very grave consequences for the Yeovil site as a whole. I accept, of course that any such “siphoning” strategy would be contrary to the spirit of the Strategic Agreement. But unhappily it is not, it appears, contrary to its letter. I asked you for an undertaking that the Government would keep a close oversight on the conduct of the Strategic Partnership in order to ensure that the Yeovil site is not disadvantaged. I hope you will be able to provide this in your response to this letter.


I also pressed you, as I have in my letters to the Secretary of State, for a clear undertaking that the forthcoming Government Green Paper on the national industrial strategy, due to appear you said before the end of the year, would include a clear statement that the Government regards Britain’s stand-alone ability to design, manufacture and assemble helicopters as an essential part of our national aero-space industrial base which should be preserved. I was, I confess, surprised to learn that, even at this late stage you were unable to provide this assurance, on the grounds that the Green Paper is being drafted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. But surely it cannot be the case that, as Minister for Defence Procurement whose decisions have a profound impact on the country’s aero-space industry, that you have not had – and do not intend to seek – input into the Green Paper? I hope you will be able to re-assure me on this matter. If it were to be the case that there was no such statement in the Green Paper, then people would be bound to conclude that this Government, unlike its predecessors, was not fully committed to maintaining the full range of skills, integrated assembly and technology, which only the Yeovil can provide for the nation.


Finally, there is the matter of the GKN tooling for the AW 159 Wildcat work currently being carried out in Yeovil. This tooling is, as you know, essential for the production of the AW159. I pointed out to you the fact that the MoD owns this tooling gives the Government very substantial leverage over what happens next. It is open to the MoD, as owners of this tooling, to insist that it will not be shipped abroad, but maintained on the Yeovil site. This will, of course ensure that much the work involved will stay in Yeovil, rather than being allowed to leach away elsewhere, along with the technology and skills involved, We both agreed that the Government’s intention is to ensure that the Leonardo relationship should enable “the Yeovil group to continue to be a centre for the design and development of the AW159 and other aircraft”. I cannot see how this commitment could be fulfilled if the Government fails to use its ownership of the 159 tooling to ensure that the lost GKN work stays on the Yeovil site, instead of being shipped abroad, along with the jobs involved. I hope that you will be able to give me this undertaking in the near future.


Thank you again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.








Paddy Ashdown

Remembering Srebrenica 2017


7pm 12 July 2017

St James’s Church Piccadilly

Speech by Paddy Ashdown

A few days after the fall of Srebrenica, while the killing was going on, I was driving through the battle of Igman in a battered old Renault 5 with some Bosnian friends. We were heading for the secret tunnel dug under the airfield by which we hoped to arrive in besieged Sarajevo. By the time we arrived in city, the whole place was abuzz with some terrible event – even more terrible than the other horrors of the Bosnian war – which had happened in the Srebrenica “safe haven”.

The story finally came to be revealed in all its unspeakable horror, little by little over the following days. Even to those of us used to the medievalism of the Bosnian wars, it seemed unbelievable.

But it wasn’t

Later, as International High Representative  in Bosnia, it became my job to go and see the mass graves and the broken shards of bodies in the Tuzla caves. Here they were trying to identify those who had been murdered, so that they could receive a burial in dignity in the Srebrenica memorial graveyard, where more than 8 thousand white stones, row on row point their stark finger at heaven, in accusation of man’s inhumanity to man.

And we all said “It must never happen again”.

But it has. In Rwanda in Iraq and in Syria before our very eyes – today.

And we all said that those who committed these atrocities should be brought to justice.

But they haven’t – not all of them.

The main architects of the killing have been dealt with, true enough. But many of the lower level killers still walk free in Bosnia today – some not far from the Golgotha they helped to create.

It was not part of my job as International High Representative to create the extraordinary memorial ground at Potocari. Yet it was one of the proudest moments of my life to work with Munira Subasic and the Majke Srebrenica and play a small part in creating this iconic memorial to those who died – and to our commitment to remember them all our days

It is no good pointing at religions as the cause of this. Ungodly people of every religion have committed these horrors – and Godly people of every religion have sought to stop them.

It is not the religions we must blame. It is the extremists of all religions who are the curse of our age and of every age before us.

My friend Mustafa Ceric, the Reis ul Ulema of Bosnia and Herzegovina wrote this;

“Isn’t it true then that our life is nothing but sharing the fears and hopes of our times.

We share the clay from which we all came and to which we will, once again return.

We share the belief in One God who created us from a single soul and then scattered us like seeds into countless human beings

We share the same father Adam and the same mother Eve.

We shear the air we breathe and the rise of the sun we see every day.

We share Abrahams faith and Noah’s Ark of salvation

We share the love of the Virgin Mary (Maryam) and respect for her son Jesus (Yasue).

We share the true stories of Moses and his divine leadership of his people in Sinai.

We share the clear word of the Holy Qur’an and the exemplary life of the Messenger Muhammad.

We share the joy of good tidings and the sorrow of horrors

We share the pleasures of our successes and the pain of our failures.

We share the humanity of our hearts and minds”

In a trouble and turbulent world, it is in this principle alone that our salvation lies – that we remember above those things that divide us, those things that we share as part of our common humanity and our common heritage.

It is to that principle that we rededicate ourselves as we remember the murdered of Srebrenica today.



Here is Ashdown’s second rule for the internet age: “If you see a business model that takes no account of the new technologies, you see a business model which is failing”.

This applies to most newspapers, some old fashioned businesses and nearly all political parties.

Conventional political parties remain immovably stuck in the 1870s.

They are vertical hierarchies, when the paradigm structure of our time is the network.

They are high overhead, narrow membership, high cost of entry, limited participation organisations, while successful social and commercial structures are based on a low overhead, mass membership, low (or no) cost of entry and instant participation model.

They are festooned with lumbering committees and a tangle of elections which pretend to provide accountability and transparency, but actually obscure both, when direct instant democratic participation is the rule for the most successful modern civil society movements and political structures (think Cinque Stella, Momentum, More United and En Marche).

In order to play a full part, today’s conventional political party requires its members to be obsessives prepared to spend evenings in damp village halls and bright September days when they could be on the beach, in stuffy conclaves at faded seaside resorts, passing obscure amendments to policies no-one will ever hear of again. But most ordinary people nowadays conduct their internet lives, not through consuming singular obsessions, but through multiple daily transactions which mix what they believe in, with earning a living and having fun.

Political Parties, as institutions are dying (except those who have in some form or another adopted the internet in their internal structures, like Momentum and Labour). This is one of the reasons why our politics seems so bewildering and senseless to ordinary people and voters.

Our Party is in an extremely hazardous condition. Unless we do something radical and different soon, our old members will become disheartened and our new members will fade away.

Here is my proposition. The Party Board should commission a study which would report in short order (but before the end of July) to investigate whether and if so how and in what time frame, the Lib Dems could be converted into a modern, internet based political organisation (LibDems.org), structured around a low overhead, low cost of entry, mass movement model in which a one person one vote internet enabled democracy, was the normal way of taking all our key decisions.