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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book not just about politics
I don't normally buy political books, but got this one because I wanted to know more about Paddy Ashdown.
It is a well written and easy book to read.
The political stuff is interesting but the fascinating stuff is the non political stuff. The enteries on Bosnia and the siege of Sarajevo was really gripping stuff. The sections on Paddy Ashdown's private life...
Published on 14 Nov. 2000

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But For the Wrong Reasons
It probably wasn't Paddy's intention that Blair, Mandelson and Cook should upstage him in his own memoirs, but that is the unfortunate end effect of these worthy, but humourless diaries.
The book falls into two distinct halves: the Westminster diaries and the Balkan diaries. While the latter are engagingly written, involving the reader by their pace and descriptive...
Published on 17 Dec. 2001


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book not just about politics, 14 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
I don't normally buy political books, but got this one because I wanted to know more about Paddy Ashdown.
It is a well written and easy book to read.
The political stuff is interesting but the fascinating stuff is the non political stuff. The enteries on Bosnia and the siege of Sarajevo was really gripping stuff. The sections on Paddy Ashdown's private life really left you quite depressed amount what is done in the name of journalism.
There are some really funny enteries in the book, his first trip to Buckingham Palace left me laughing out loud.
The main story throughout the book is the relationship he has with Blair. At times I got slightly confused, I must admit I am not to hot on the different types of PR etc! But it really was an interesting insight into the way modern British politics works.
This book certainly humanises some characters in the public eye. With everything that was going on...you certainly wonder how Ashdown kept sane.
Overall this is a great book that I have really enjoyed reading, and look forward to the second volume.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal acccount of national events, 9 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
The period of this book is an eventful and full one. We begin at the height of Thatcher's power and trace her fall. We then move on to the less combative - but just as interesting - premiership of Major. The diaries end as Tony Blair enters Downing Street and goes back on the carefully laid plans of Liberal-Labour co-ordination.
These political events are brought to life by Ashdown who was outside of the main two parties and so views events from a slightly detached position, unlike the Diaries of Alan Clark or the memoirs of cabinet ministers who were closer to these internal wranglings.
Ashdown's writing style is clear and effective. His meetings with Blair and Major give great insights into the private personalities of these prime ministers, whilst his trips to Buckingham Palace provide a balance of information and indiscretion. Journeys to Bosnia describe complicated wars with knowledge and passion.
Foreign policy, domestic policy and party politics are all explained here, and I would doubt that a more educational yet accessible and entertaining account of the period 1988-1997 and its players could be found elsewhere.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But For the Wrong Reasons, 17 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Ashdown Diaries: 1988-1997 v. 1 (Paperback)
It probably wasn't Paddy's intention that Blair, Mandelson and Cook should upstage him in his own memoirs, but that is the unfortunate end effect of these worthy, but humourless diaries.
The book falls into two distinct halves: the Westminster diaries and the Balkan diaries. While the latter are engagingly written, involving the reader by their pace and descriptive flair, the Westminster recollections are memorable only for their insights into the political skills of Tony Blair and his closest circle.
The reader gains the strong impression that Paddy is at his happiest when he is courting danger, dodging mortar fire, and interviewing villainous warlords. The Bosnian adventures are reminiscent of John Simpson's exploits in 'A Mad World, My Masters'. One senses a wistful nostalgia for the politician's SBS days.
Back on the Westminster scene, however, Paddy seems to metamorphose into a rather grumpy party leader who feels uncomfortable in his role, and who appears to dislike almost every aspect of the House of Commons, its procedures, and its inmates. It's clear that he's exhausted and frustrated, and can't wait to get out of the job.
The most striking feature of these diaries is their almost total lack of humour. Fans of Clark and Brandreth will not find much to entertain them. Also, readers who have only a passing interest in Proportional Representation may get bogged down in the interminable discourses on this subject.
The impression one is left with is that Paddy should have stayed in the Army or Diplomatic Service, in both of which he would undoubtedly have excelled. These are the diaries of an admirable and worthy man whose rather rigid and upright views made it difficult for him to fit into the uneasy compromises of modern political life.
As an insight into the mind of the embryo Prime Minister Blair, however, the diaries are quite fascinating. But somehow I don't think that was Paddy's intention.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for Everyone, 20 Dec. 2000
So some of the other people reviewing The Ashdown Diaries thought there was too much mundanity.
These are Diaries, and in that sense are similar to Thatcher's Downing Street Years. They tell the whole story about his time as Leader of the LibDems, and not just the exciting stuff - if there was no 'average' then it would be difficult to believe.
This really is one of the best political diaries to come out, and I would say that it could easily rival Alan Clark. Fair enough, if you're after gripping page-turning storylines then you will be disappointed, but if you just want to know more about the supreme politician of our age, then BUY THIS!
EXCELLENT!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ashdown's first diary has you in stitches throughout, 7 Mar. 2002
This review is from: The Ashdown Diaries: 1988-1997 v. 1 (Paperback)
Paddy Ashdown has shown that he is a character! Having met him personally his sense of wit and humour was excellent.
His book illustrates this brilliantly. The line on Margeret Thatcher, calling her a "dotty" was excellent.
What was best about the book though, was the element of surprise. Right from the in-fighting he had to contend with in his party, when he became leader, the "truth" about the Balkans, the secret deals with Blair and his surprising friendship with John Major (even though in public they seemed to unlike each other). It was a book that illustrates why Lib Dems are revived and play a part in this country. That reason is Paddy Ashdown's approach. He was tough, ruthless at times and even delivered the Conservativs a creditable opposition when Labour were in civil war.
A touching moment was the problems he had when the press got hold of his affair. It just shows how reputable politicians can be subjected to heartache from nonsense our media report on. You really felt for him. Like the autobiography I am reading at present, of John Major, his honesty shines through. A marvellous, book, a marvellous chap!
A MUST READ BOOK---- 5 STARS
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Prepare Not To Have Power!, 27 May 2007
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Ashdown Diaries: 1988-1997 v. 1 (Paperback)
Paddy Ashdown, ex-Royal Marine and Special Boat Service, took over the Liberals from the pompously fatuous David Steel, who could fit all his party's M.P.s into two taxis (one for the gargantuan Cyril Smith, the other for the remaining four or five). Ashdown had some success in increasing the number of Liberals in Parliament and in local government, but, in attempting to treat with the Labour opposition under Tony Blair (in a bid to introduce proportional representation to the UK), he was misled by the latter (quelle surprise!), his party then being swamped as the voters abandoned John Major's Conservatives in droves, voting for "New Labour" and ignoring the Liberal Party as Conservative and Liberal voters found that Blair seemed like, well, both, or either, or whatever: "All things nice" and "Things Can Only Get Better" (remember that?! Politics As A Pop Song?).

The book is a good read in parts, sadly pedestrian in others, particularly the endless discussions around PR etc. It has to be said that, for a national political leader, Ashdown seems astonishingly naive in some areas. And he is all too ready, in military fashion, to admire and revere people and institutions unworthy of his plaudits. At the same time, he takes for granted his own importance and, like many politicians and especially British Liberal Party politicians, hugely overvalues that role. This was a characteristic of his predecessors: Jeremy Thorpe --who wanted to bomb the British people in Rhodesia in 1966 -- and David Steel, who flew around Africa denouncing white rule in South Africa and imagining himself on equal terms with the assorted African dictators he praised; so with Ashdown's immediate successor, Kennedy, who was wont to expatiate on matters over which he had as little influence (thank God!) as you or I. In Ashdown's case, we read that he is invited as guest of honour at the "passing out" dinner of the 1996 Secret Intelligence Service trainees (no doubt because he had had some previous connection when in the military special forces). What struck me most on this is that he thinks it quite normal that he is taken from home (with some others already on board) BY HELICOPTER to the training place (presumably their fort near Portsmouth, though he does not specify and, next day, on to London, also by helicopter). Why should the taxpayers pick up bills like that, because a few bureaucrats want to play James Bond? He never even poses the question. Something else struck me: he writes a bit like the impressed NCO invited for a drink in the officers' mess. Rather odd, bearing in mind that he himself had accomplished confidential missions in conjunction, at least, with SIS. The trainees he met were, after all, only a clique of recent University students who sound, even as Ashdown praises them, very precious and mutually-admiring.

The book is heavy on short-lived "triumphs" like the defection of a few Conservative M.P.s. They wasted their time, all being voted out in 1997 anyway. As for PR, of course, if you believe at all in our "democracy", it is absurd to keep the old geographic boundaries and the first past the post system, which means that a party which gets even 25% in each seat might get no MPs at all. But Blair obviously bamboozled Ashdown pretty comprehensively over PR and never attempted to implement the halfhearted "agreement" made. Another interesting point is that Ashdown admits at one point that, in 1991, his party is only getting 4% in some elections! In the 1970's, the National Front was getting between 5% and 10%, occasionally more (which is why the election deposits were increased by 10x, then (I believe) further increased (doubled?), to freeze the NF out. The Liberals, with their traditional support areas, much more money and no mass media hostility, had come through that little "operation" almost unscathed to Ashdown's period of leadership tenure.

It suited the media to "reveal" the brief affair with his secretary, about 6 years after it happened. He is both appalled and amused to see the Sun "newspaper" refer to him in a headline as "Paddy Pantsdown", a soubriquet which has stuck. You still hear him called that 15+ years later!

He is at his most self-important in his Bosnian adventures (almost rivalling David Owen, his ertswhile SDP Liberal Alliance colleague, of whom King Hussein is said to have asked "do you suppose he is any good as a doctor?"!). He tries to become an expert and, later, supremo, while admitting that, in 1991, he did not even know where Bosnia was located!One would imagine the Balkans waited with breath bated for a word from the Liberal "High Command"! What IS it about the Liberal (or Liberal Democrat) leaders? Even the unlamented recent alcoholic Liberal leader (they have had two more since that one, a pensioner and a suburban nobody!) seemed to think he had a right to deliver self-importantly "weighty" pronouncements on "racism", Africa and other matters and be seriously listened to! 2008 update: since I penned this review, Ashdown managed to get himself nominated for a kind of U.N. "Supremo" position in Afghanistan, until the Afghan government made a brief statement and squashed his ambitions! Not for nothing did Ashdown live, when not in London, in a house called Vane Cottage! And read or spell that as you like!

Overall, a mixed book, but it has to be said that Ashdown himself does come over in the end, au fond, as a decent sort, at least in his private capacity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 19 July 2014
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A book that lacks life and pace, 9 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
I was very disappointed in this book because I was expecting interesting insights into what happened behind the scenes during a fascinating period in British politics. Instead I got a boring plod through Paddy's incertainties about his ability to fulfil the role of leader adequately or to read the mood of the party.
The navel gazing seemed interminable. Hand wringing would have been fine from time to time but there was too much of it for my taste. If he constantly doubts his own judgement I'm grateful Tony Blair never gave him a job in Government.
There were a numer of references to the strong feelings experienced felt by the author when, for example, he was confronted by people caught up in the wars in Central Europe but sadly this emotion does not reach the pages. I found the style very wooden and spiritless.
The book is full of references to well known political figures, who are transformed into cardboard cut-outs by the magic of the Ashdown pen. Even Charles Kennedy and Simon Hughes have had their characters surgically removed in this diary.
There was too much that was mundane. I lost track of the number of times I was told Paddy had gone to the office early, gone to bed very late or was very tired.
I enjoyed some of the rather spiteful comments about Paddy's rivals and colleagues but even these small gems didn't make this a worthwhile read.
Finally, I was driven to distraction by the endless footnotes. They were too detailed and the relevant information could have been included in the body of the text.
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The Ashdown Diaries: 1988-1997 v. 1
The Ashdown Diaries: 1988-1997 v. 1 by Paddy Ashdown (Paperback - 16 Sept. 2001)
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