‘Today Paddy Ashdown will be welcoming former Social Democrat David Owen to the Liberal Democrats,’ read the press release. Myself and the local PPC decided that, in this desperate time for the party, we should try something creative to get the media interested in our campaign.
It was, of course the real Paddy Ashdown, but the David Owen in question was not former Foreign Secretary, David Owen MP. It was a local student member of the continuing SDP had decided that, following the gradual decline of David Owen’s SDP he would join the local Liberal Democrats, and the visit of the newly elected Lib Dem leader, Paddy Ashdown, was a perfect opportunity to get the press involved.
So, duly we arrived in the local town centre with Paddy and David to what can only be described as a Lancastrian media scrum, which Paddy had to gradually let down the local media as he explained that he was delighted to be welcoming the student Social Democrat, David Owen.
Nonetheless the photo call went off well and it made an excellent piece in the local papers.
The visit was in 1989, a particularly bad year for the Liberal Democrats, and any publicity was very welcome, as we had just polled 6% across the UK in the European Elections.