A reminiscence from Nick Hollinghurst,
“The Right Hon Captain Jeremy Ashdown, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hampden, Privy Counsellor and much decorated, known as “Paddy”, was courageous, principled, easy to talk to and charming company. On one rare, but well-remembered occasion, I had a chat with him. He was a Liberal observer at the first SDP conference where he was reconnoitring these newcomers to the political scene and I was a delegate he happened to find in a bar, when I was bunking off fom a particularly boring debatathon on the new party’s constitution.
Over twenty minutes and half a pint of bitter, when his subtle MI6 information-gathering techniques were probably in full play, he learnt something about our fledgling party and I was completely enthralled by his wit, enthusiasm, eagerness, good will and his evident ability. We will all miss him very much.
He had many achievements but one near the top of the list must be his enlightened and effective administration as the High Representative of the UN’s Peace Implementation Council as well as being the EU’s Special Representative in Bosnia and Hercegovina (2002 – 2006) which embedded peace and stability after an appalling civil war based on nationalism and imagined ethnic differences. He succeeded in amalgamating the two “ethnically” based armies under one single civilian command and remodelled and strengthened a single police force under central government control. Half way through his term of office the NATO peacekeeping force SFOR was replaced by an EU force, SFOR Althea. Paddy’s robustness in identifying and dismissing politicians and officials too closely linked with the preceding civil war were criticised in some quarters but his fairness and rigour did in fact lay firm foundations for peace and development which have stood the test of time.”
Paddy Ashdown will be hugely missed By Vince Cable, Dec 22, 2018 8:12
Earlier this evening, Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats passed away following a short illness
Our thoughts are with Jane and Paddy’s family this evening.
This is a hugely sad day for the Liberal Democrats and for the very many people across political and public life who had immense affection and respect for Paddy.
Few people know how hard he fought to get into politics following his service in the marines and diplomatic service. He exercised every ounce of his considerable personal stamina to win the Yeovil seat.
Paddy was a personal example to me and to many other candidates. The time he made for his indefatigable campaigning involved considerable personal sacrifice, building the constituency result up from a low base to famous victory in 1983.
Once in Parliament, he made a real mark. He was always listened to, in particular, on international issues and defence.
He took up unpopular causes where he was respected for his convictions, in particular promoting the rights of the citizens of Hong Kong, and – later – military intervention in Kosovo.
As Party Leader, he took time to tour the country staying with families all around Britain, as part of his ‘Beyond Westminster’ tour, properly understanding people in the recessions of the 1990s
He inspired the Liberal Democrats from a polling position he famously described as ‘represented by an asterisk’, to become a formidable campaigning force, doubling the party’s representation to 46 MPs and laying the ground for the strength which later took the party into government.
It was an immense pity that he himself didn’t see office in government.
Though the Liberal Democrats had enjoyed incredible success in 1997, in large part due to his leadership, the Labour landslide meant that New Labour did not need Liberal Democrat support. It was a mark of his strength that he nonetheless successfully pushed the Blair government towards constitutional reform.
Sent by Tony Blair as High Representative to Bosnia, he brought that country back to stability, showing the qualities he could have offered to the Cabinet here.
Finally, he has been a powerful voice was of real significance for the pro-European cause in recent years. He was aghast at the direction our country has been taking, and as ever did all he could to campaign for a change of course.
He will be sadly missed in all parts of politics and Parliament.
We have set up an online book of condolence should you wish to share a message or simply leave your name. All messages will be sent to Paddy’s family.