Paddy Ashdown

The Week In Radio: It's hard work when you're in the thick of it

When a public figure dies, the whole of his life flashes before other people's eyes. So hours after the Prime Minister's post-dated political demise, a kneejerk appreciation called Gordon Brown: a Political Life was rushed on to Radio 4. Yet although Shaun Ley's programme contained a perfectly comprehensive checklist of all the delights of Brown's years in office – Bigotgate, psychological flaws, Forces of Hell, moral compass, smile – it had a perfunctory air that suggested now was not the best time to take the measure of the man. And that is the problem with living in interesting times. Achieving perspective from the middle of a political avalanche is a challenge and the Today programme has coped better than most. Unlike the TV studios, where captive politicians can sit for hours repeating formulas on a loop, Today's presenters have been far sharper than their televisual equivalents. When Paddy Ashdown came on with a lofty peroration about how he could not possibly reveal his own position, Nick Robinson was as cutting as a kitchen knife. "We can hear what you're saying, Paddy, and so can the rest of the country."