Lord Paddy Ashdown visits INA

Lord Paddy Ashdown


On Tuesday 16th January, Lord Paddy Ashdown visited Isaac Newton Academy as part of our exciting Speakers’ Programme.


The INA students had researched Paddy Ashdown’s career ahead of his visit, and were extremely excited about raising their issues and concerns with a top politician.


Lord Ashdown shared some interesting stories about his career before hosting a Q&A session with the students. Students learned that he was an ex-Royal Marine and also experienced some periods of unemployment - he is the only Member of Parliament to be elected from the unemployed register.


It was a credit to his charisma and passion that the INA students had so many questions and were genuinely interested in his thoughtful, forthright answers.


Although he left school with few qualifications, Paddy encouraged the students to use school to ‘stuff their toolboxes full of tools’ because such things as knowledge, the ability to learn and the confidence to question everything can never be taken away from them.


During the Q&A session, students asked questions about a variety of topics, including Brexit, his views on a coalition government, the UK voting system, property prices, women in politics, environmental challenges and the rise of anti-fascist groups such as Antifa.


It is unsurprising that, as a former leader of the Liberal Democratic party, Lord Ashdown spoke about his party with great warmth and conviction. He urged the students to make the right decisions and to make sure they use their vote; he did not try and persuade them which way they should be voting.


Lord Ashdown said "I was really impressed by the maturity and intelligence of the questions asked today and if this lot governs Britain we are going to be in good hands. The subjects covered today were terrific. These young people are the future and with so much aspiration in this school, it means that we have the aspiration to change things and have a different kind of government as well."


Sugra Alibhai, Vice Principal and Head of Sixth Form at Isaac Newton Academy, said "We are very grateful to Lord Ashdown for giving up his time to come and talk to our students in such a candid and open manner. Our students were struck by how rich and varied his life has been. We look forward to welcoming future speakers who can contribute to inspiring our students here at INA."


Some feedback from the Year 12 students included:


"Paddy Ashdown was a very good guest speaker. He spoke very eloquently and he encouraged us to participate in politics and to speak out about what we believe in." Yusra


"He was interesting and a great inspiration to us all." Ibraheem


"He made a huge impact on our general views on life and the way we should conduct ourselves. It has made me consider going into politics in the future." Amir


"Listening to that talk has made me take a much greater interest in politics. I wish I had taken it for A level!"  Keanna


Paddy Ashdown concluded his talk with a quote from the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, which celebrates unity in diversity:


‘We are all the more one because we are many,
For we have made ample room for love in the gap where we are sundered.
Our unlikeness reveals its breadth of beauty radiant with one common life,
Like mountain peaks in the morning sun.’


Our heartfelt thanks to Paddy Ashdown for so generously giving us his time and attention.