Should Ashdown be brought into the cabinet?

Should Ashdown be brought into the cabinet?

Would this beef up his party’s fire-power?

Yesterday I was having a natter with someone well connected within the Lib Dems who came up with an interesting idea to help Nick Clegg and the yellows with their current predicament – allocate one of the party’s five cabinet places to the former leader, Paddy Ashdown.

An ideal position, given Ashdown’s former role as High Representative in Bosnia and early career as a soldier could be to replace the increasingly detached Liam Fox as defence secretary.

Three years ago he turned down an offer from Gordon Brown to join his cabinet as part of the ill-fated “Government of All the Talents” initiative and a year later was being considered as the UN High Representative for Afghanistan.

His presence would ease concerns within the party about the coalition and provide real support for the man who was once his protege – Nick Clegg.

Ashdown, as he demonstrated a few weeks ago with his fierce attack on David Miliband, is prepared to mix it.

Then he was accusing the Labour leadership front-runner of undermining any idea of a LAB-LD arrangement by refusing to go public in his support of such a plan at a critical moment in the negotiations.

The former leader would be a ferocious critic of Labour’s attempt to wiggle out of ifs manifesto commitment on AV. He would recall, no doubt, the formal LD linkages with Blair’s Labour following the 1997 election when a similar commitment was abandoned.

If Labour had stuck with those undertakings then it’s likely it would not be in its current predicament.

Mike Smithson

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