By GRAHAME ANDERSON
Indian born Lord Paddy Ashdown passed away on Saturday his life cut short at the age of 77 by bladder cancer. And yet in typical fashion the popular and down to earth political figure had recently tweeted: it “does not merit a fuss”, adding: “Many go through this. The NHS guys in Yeovil Hosp. are BRILLIANT.
“I have the best of people and the best of friends to fight this with, which makes me, as so often in my life, very lucky.”
The former leader who revolutionised the Liberal Democrats in the 90’s grew up in Northern Ireland but later served in both the Royal Marines and Special Boat Service with distinction. He saw action in Borneo and the Persian Gulf, later becoming High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. During his time in the military he learned Mandarin Chinese and qualified as an interpreter in Hong Kong.
Lord Ashdown’s Marriage survived a scare in 1992 following a well publicised five-month affair with his Secretary, but it’s for his special qualities of which there were many he will be fondly remembered.
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He was the highly regarded MP for Yeovil from 1983 to 2001 doing wonderful work for his constituents. Already Knighted, he was made a peer becoming Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon when he left the Commons. More recently the well respected former leader was a passionate voice in the Brexit ‘Remain’, campaign appearing alongside then Prime Minister David Cameron and former Labour Leader Lord Kinnock. In fact, it was his willingness to support a number of issues across the political divide that not only won him incredible respect but demonstrated cross party agreement can often be to everyone’s benefit.
The party said: “He would be remembered as someone who made an immeasurable contribution to furthering the cause of liberalism”.
Sir Vince Cable, the party’s current leader, added: “It was “a hugely sad day” for the party and everyone else across politics “who had immense affection and respect for Paddy.”
He hailed a man who “was famous for his politics, but his talents extended well beyond that arena”.
Tim Farron, who eventually succeeded Lord Ashdown’s said: “Paddy Ashdown was a hero to me, he saved and revived the Liberal Democrats at our lowest ebb, and then led us to our best result for 70 years.
“As a movement, we owe him our very existence. Much love to Jane and the family. Thank you boss.”
Former Tory international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, who worked closely with him through the coalition years, said Lord Ashdown had been “a wonderful man and a hugely effective politician” who had been admired by the late Margaret Thatcher. He added: “He was an extraordinary character. Mrs Thatcher had immense respect for him and although he was a political opponent, held his views in the highest regard.”
Current Prime Minister Theresa May told the media: “It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Lord Ashdown.
“He dedicated his life to public service and he will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said he admired the former Lib Dem leader “as a man and as a political visionary and leader” who was “excellent company, always fun to be around.
“He was motivated by values of compassion, decency and a profound commitment to make the world a better place.
“He had courage, personal and political, unafraid to speak his mind yet always open to the views of others. He was one of the least tribal politicians I have ever known.
Lord Ashdown will be greatly missed at a time when respect between politicians seems to have hit an all time low.