Paddy Ashdown: Why the World Will Never be the Same Again, EIBF 2012, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Paddy Ashdown, James Naughtie (chair)
Running time

Paddy Ashdown spoke at the Baker Tilly Event which was chaired by the BBC "Today" presenter James Naughtie. Considering the ominous title of the event, Why the World Will Never be the Same Again, it was a light-hearted start.

"Our guest tonight has never been in Government", said Naughtie, adding that actually Paddy Ashdown had "sold out". After pausing for the laughter to subside, he admitted that this was "a somewhat 'Laboured' joke"!

Ashdown responded by saying he liked the occasional introduction as it reminded him of who he is, recalling a man accosting him in the street, saying, "did you no used tae be Paddy Ashdown?"

Ashdown opened his lecture by expertly quoting A. E. Houseman's "Shropshire Lad" and then suggested to the audience that he has identified "Ashdown's third law of the modern age".

He explained that the world moved in cycles: where today the balance of power is moving away from the West and from N America, in particular.   His rationale was that all the great empires have only lasted for defined periods and he suggested that we are now witnessing the drift of power to the eastern nations. Ashdown suggested that we  are now in a world where no rules exist on the global stage with such influences as the internet and the power of the markets - who trade in wealth far beyond the value of the actual goods being bought and sold.

He went on to say that where space exists it will be filled by others.  Where power goes then there is a need for governance at a global level, through treaty based organisations such as the World Trade Organisation or the International Court of Justice.

He kept stressing the need for agencies and nations to work together, but what he felt was also worrying was the second "power shift" as he called it.

He felt it was entirely wrong to slash the military budgets because we are increasingly at the mercy of the big players. America now has no troops deployed in Europe to defend the UK while China is continuing to build up its presence and influence abroad - particularly where there are resources to exploit.

Bringing matters closer to home he saw the need for all the departments of state to start working much more closely together because of the interconnectivity of the world we live in.

In questions he expressed his admiration for President Obama and said he dreaded the possibility of the Republicans taking power as he thought this would create much uncertainty and with Romney as President, America would not surrender its position as the most powerful nation without a fight.  Ashdown considered that  a Republican at the helm would make many difficulties and create a much more uncertain world.

This was a masterly performance by a hugely experienced politician and it was most impressive.