'ASHDOWN WOULD HAVE UNDERMINED NATO'
Daily Telegraph – 22 July 1999
Would-be NATO Secretary-General Paddy Ashdown's opposition to nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, outlined by Julian Lewis MP (letter, July 20), extended even to the undermining of his own Party leadership.
On 21 September 1984, less than a year after NATO's vital cruise missiles had successfully been deployed here, the Guardian reported that the delegates at the Liberal Conference "yesterday rejected a personal appeal by their leader, Mr David Steel, and voted narrowly to support the unilateral abandonment of cruise missiles in Britain".
Mr Steel had stated his opposition to the unilateralist options "because I believe they are politically disastrous. The electorate has demonstrated time and time again that, rightly in my view, they will not vote for any party which dodges its basic responsibility to the security of our country".
Paddy Ashdown would have none of this: as the newspaper reported, David Steel's ovation "could not match the ecstatic applause for Mr Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal MP for Yeovil, who was the architect of the policy demanding the abandonment of cruise missiles and who is being tipped eventually to replace Mr Steel".
The world now knows how the deployment of cruise missiles in 1983 led directly to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces deal – a vital element in the West's Cold War victory. If Mr Ashdown had had his way, NATO would have been fatally undermined at a turning-point in its history.
Sir ARCHIE HAMILTON MP
House of Commons