Daily Telegraph – 20 July 1999
You report (July 17) that Paddy Ashdown is being pushed by Downing Street as the next Secretary-General of NATO, but that his qualities are not recognised in Europe or America because he is an unknown. His record on defence, however, is at best mixed. Mr Ashdown has a good record on the Balkans, but a dreadful one on nuclear deterrence.
At the height of the Cold War, he shared a platform with the then Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, at CND's largest ever demonstration. "Let us be clear," he declared. "This country does not need cruise and NATO does not need cruise. Cruise is the front end of the whole anti-nuclear struggle. It is the weapon we HAVE to stop" (Ashdown press release, October 22, 1983).
The following year he featured at a press conference with the CND chairman, Joan Ruddock, at the launch of a "CND Campaign against Trident", at which he described our deterrent as "a monstrous folly which we should divest ourselves of as soon as possible" (Morning Star, July 19, 1984).
In the CND magazine Sanity, in December 1985, he declared: "I remain wholly opposed to nuclear weapons .... I agree with the Liberal Party, which is the only British political party that has always opposed a British nuclear deterrent." Yet, on the eve of the 1992 General Election, he had the effrontery to claim: "I never took the view that this country did not need an independent deterrent" (BBC Newsnight, April 6, 1992).
Many others, besides Mr Ashdown, foolishly attacked nuclear deterrence when the safety of the West depended on it. Few, however, have been quite as blatant in rewriting their records as he.
NATO is a nuclear alliance dependent on nuclear deterrence: its Secretary-General must be someone who carries conviction in this vital respect.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons