Paddy Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown

Infobox Politician
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name = The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
honorific-suffix = GCMG KBE PC

imagesize = 150px
birth_date = birth date and age|1941|02|27|df=y
birth_place = New Delhi, British India
office1 = High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina
order1 = 4th
term_start1 = 27 September 2002
term_end1 = 30 May 2006
predecessor1 = Wolfgang Petritsch
successor1 = Christian Schwarz-Schilling
office2 = Leader of Liberal Democrats
term_start2 = 16 July 1988
term_end2 = 11 August 1999
predecessor2 = David Steel (Liberal Party) and Robert Maclennan (SDP)
successor2 = Charles Kennedy
party = (1) Liberal Party
(2) Liberal Democrats

Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, GCMG, KBE, PC, (born 27 February 1941), commonly known as Paddy Ashdown, is a British politician and international diplomat.

Ashdown was Member of Parliament (MP) for Yeovil from 1983 to 2001, and leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 until August 1999; later he was the international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 27 September 2002 to 30 May 2006. A gifted , Ashdown is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and other languages. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG) in the New Year Honours 2006.

Early life

Ashdown is the eldest of seven childrencite news |url= |title=Five facts about Paddy Ashdown |author= |publisher=Reuters |date=21 June 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-23] and was born in New Delhi in British Indiacite web |url= |title=Curriculum Vitae: Paddy Ashdown |publisher=Office of the High Representative (OHR) and EU Special Representative (EUSR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina |date=27 May 2002 |accessdate=2007-11-23] , to a family of soldiers and colonial administrators who spent their lives in India.cite news |url= |title=Action man bows out |work=BBC News online |date=9 August 1999 |accessdate=2007-11-23] His father was a lapsed Catholic, and his mother a Protestant. [cite news |url= |title=Changes in our own hands |author= |work=Nezavisne novine |date=29 October 2002 |accessdate=2007-11-23 |quote="I am from Ireland, where society is divided too. In my school children were separated on Catholics and Protestants, but I said that I am a Muslim, because my father was a catholic, my mother a protestant. That's not a reason why I was so bad student. My teachers told me that knowledge is gaining through whole life, and man is learning all the time. That changed my life. That's why, this start of education campaign in BiH is the most important, since I came to BiH", said Ashdown.] His father was a Captain in the Indian Army, 14th Punjab Regiment & RIASC and his mother was a QA. He is a great great grandson of Daniel O'Connell, the Irish statesman and campaigner for Home Rule. ["The Ashdown Diaries, Vol 1"] He was largely brought up in Northern Ireland, where his father bought a farm in 1945 near Donaghadeecite news |url= |title=An education in the life of Lord Ashdown: 'I was bullied early on, but then I learnt to fight' |author=Jonathan Sale |work=The Independent |date=18 October 2001 |accessdate=2007-11-23] . He was educated first at a local primary school, then as a weekly boarder at Garth House Preparatory School in Bangor and from age 11 at Bedford School in England, where his Northern Irish accent earned him the nickname "Paddy". At Bedford, he said, "I was bullied early on, but then I learnt to fight".

Royal Marines

After his father's business collapsed, he took a naval scholarship to pay for his school fees, but left before taking A-levels and joined the Royal Marines in 1959, serving until 1972. He served in Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation and the Persian Gulf before Special Forces training in 1965, after which he joined the elite Special Boat Service and commanded a Special Boat Section in the Far East. He then went to Hong Kong in 1967 to undertake a full-time interpreter's course in Chinese, and returned to England in 1970 when he was given command of a Commando Company in Belfast.


After leaving the Marines, Ashdown worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as first secretary to the United Kingdom mission to the United Nations in Geneva.cite news |url=,,459350,00.html |title=Sir Paddy Ashdown |author= Andrew Roth |work=The Guardian |date=19 March 2001 |accessdate=2007-11-22] He was responsible for the UK's relations with a several United Nations organisations and was also involved in the negotiation of several international treaties, and in some aspects of the European Security Conference (the Helsinki Conference).cite web |url= |title=Who's Who: Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG KBE PC |work=Liberal Democrats website |date= |accessdate=2007-11-23]

It has been speculated that this "cushy but dull" job was a cover for a role with MI6,cite news |url= |title=Ashdown "was MI6 agent' |author= |work=Birmingham Post |date=2 September 2005 |accessdate=2007-11-23 |quote=Lord Paddy Ashdown, currently the top international administrator in Bosnia, was in the 1970s an agent for the British MI6 secret service, Sarajevo daily newspapers have reported. According to the Oslobodjenje and Dnevni Avaz newspapers, his name was published on the internet as part of a list of 311 MI6 agents, stating the British diplomat was based in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1974.] [cite journal |url= |title=The view from the Bridge |author= |issue=47 |journal=Lobster magazine |year=2004 |accessdate=2007-11-23 |quote=In Lobster 9, in 1985, Ashdown was named as having been in MI6 by Steve Dorril, in the first batch of what eventually became the Who's Who of the British Secret State] but Ashdown has refused to comment.

Political career

Whilst in the Marines, Ashdown had been a supporter of the Labour Party, but joined the Liberal Party in 1975, and decided to leave his diplomatic career to enter Liberal politics in his wife's home town of Yeovil in Somerset. In 1976 he was selected as the Liberal Party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the Yeovil constituency, and took a job with Normalair Garrett, then part of the Yeovil-based Westland Group. He subsequently worked for Tescan, and was unemployed for a time after that firm's closure in 1981, before becoming a youth worker with Dorset County Council's Youth Service, working on initiatives to help the young unemployed.

Ashdown had a comfortable life in Switzerland, where he lived with his wife Jane, and Jill and Monica their two children in a large house on the shores of Lake Geneva, enjoying plenty of time for sailing, skiing and climbing. When he left the diplomatic service, he said that "most of my friends thought it was utterly bonkers", but that he had "a sense of purpose". [cite news |url= |title=Bridge builder |author=John-Paul Flintoff |work=Financial Times website |date=24 October 2003 |accessdate=2007-11-23]

Yeovil's Liberal candidate had been placed second in February 1974 [cite news |url= |title=UK General Election results February 1974: Yeovil |work=Richard Kimber's political science resources |date= |accessdate=2007-11-23] and third in the October 1974 general election [cite news |url= |title=UK General Election results October 1974: Yeovil |work=Richard Kimber's political science resources |date= |accessdate=2007-11-23] , and Ashdown's objective was to "squeeze" the local Labour vote to enable him to defeat the Conservatives, who had held the seat since its creation in 1918. [cite book |last=Craig |first=F. W. S. |authorlink= F. W. S. Craig |title=British parliamentary election results 1918-1949 |origyear=1969 |edition= 3rd edition |year=1983 |publisher= Parliamentary Research Services |location=Chichester |id= ISBN 0-900178-06-X]

Member of Parliament

In the 1979 general election which returned the Conservatives to power, Ashdown regained second place, establishing a clear lead of 9% over the Labour candidate.cite news |url= |title=UK General Election results May 1979: Yeovil |author= |work=Richard Kimber's political science resources |accessdate=2007-11-23] However, the Conservative majority of 11,382 was still large enough to be regarded as a safe seat. However the sitting MP John Peyton stood down at the 1983 general election to be made a life peer, and Ashdown had gained momentum after his years of local campaigning. [cite book|url= |title=Almanac of British politics |author=Byron Criddle and Robert Waller |page=841 |publisher=Routledge |year=2002 |isbn=0415268338 |accessdate=2007-11-23] The Labour vote fell to only 5.5% and Ashdown won the seat with a majority of over 3,000, [cite news |url= |title=UK General Election results June 1983: Yeovil |author= |work=Richard Kimber's political science resources |accessdate=2007-11-23] a swing from the Conservatives of 11.9% against a national swing of 4% to the Conservatives.

In Parliament

Ashdown had long been on on his party's social democratic wing, supporting the 1977 Lib-Lab pact, and the SDP-Liberal Alliance. In the early 1980s he was a prominent campaigner against the deployment in Europe of American nuclear-armed cruise missiles, describing them at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rally in Hyde Park in 1983 as "the front end of the whole anti-nuclear struggle. It is the weapon we HAVE to stop." [cite news |url= |title=Nuclear record hard to defend |author=Julian Lewis |work=Western Gazette |date=28 November 1996 |accessdate=2007-11-23]

Shortly after entering the House of Commons, he was appointed SDP-Liberal Alliance spokesman on Trade and Industry and then on Education. He opposed the privatisation of Royal Ordnance in 1984, in 1986 he criticised the Thatcher government for allowing the United States to bomb Libya from UK bases, and in 1987 he campaigned against the loss of trade union rights by workers at GCHQ.

Leader of Liberal Democrats

When the Liberal Party merged in 1988 with the Social Democrats to form the Social and Liberal Democrats (the name was later shortened to "Liberal Democrats"), he was elected as the new party's leader and made a Privy Councillor in January 1989. [cite news |url= |title=Privy Councillors |author= |work=Leigh Rayment's Privy Councillors Pages |date= |accessdate=2007-11-23]

Ashdown led the Liberal Democrats into two general elections, in 1992 and 1997. The LibDems recorded a net loss of two seats in 1992, when the party was still recovering from the after-effects of the 1988 merger. However at the 1997 election, the Liberal Democrats won 46 seats, their best performance since the 1920s.

As leader he was a notable proponent of co-operation between the Liberal Democrats and "New Labour", and had regular secret meetings with Tony Blair to discuss the possibility of a coalition government. After Labour's 1997 victory a "Joint Cabinet Committee" (JCC) including senior Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians was created to discuss the implementation of the two parties' shared priorities for constitutional reform; its remit was later expanded to include other issues on which Blair and Ashdown saw scope for co-operation between the two parties. Ashdown's successor as Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, deliberately allowed the JCC to slip into abeyance until it effectively stopped meeting,fact|date=December 2007 although it is not clear if it was ever formally dissolved.fact|date=December 2007 Blair and Ashdown also agreed to create the Jenkins Commission to conduct a public inquiry into the case for electoral reform. Chaired by Liberal Democrat peer Roy Jenkins, the commission recommended replacing the first-past-the-post electoral system with a system of proportional representation for use in General Elections, in line with a key demand of Ashdown and his party. However, Blair remained unconvinced of the case for electoral reform,fact|date=December 2007 and the commission's recommendations have never been passed into law. The plan to bring Liberal Democrats into the government continued, according to Ashdown's published diaries,cite needed|date=December 2007 but foundered on opposition from senior Labour ministers.fact|date=December 2007

Resigned and retirement

Ashdown resigned the leadership in 1999 and was succeeded by Charles Kennedy. He was knighted (KBE) in 2000 and became a life peer as Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, of Norton Sub Hamdon in the County of Somerset in the House of Lords after retiring from the Commons in 2001. In the 2001 election, the Yeovil seat was retained for the Liberal Democrats by David Laws.

Offer of Cabinet post

In June 2007, the BBC reported that Ashdown had been offered, and rejected, the Cabinet post of Northern Ireland Secretary by incoming Labour Party Prime Minister Gordon Brown. [cite news |url= |title=Brown offered Ashdown Cabinet job |author= |work=BBC News online |date=21 June 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-22] Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell had already ruled out the idea that members of his party would take seats in a Brown cabinet, but, according to the reports, Brown still proceeded to approach Ashdown with the offer.

High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

After leaving British politics, he took up the post of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina on 27 May 2002, [cite news |url= |title=Ashdown takes over in Bosnia |author=Alex Todorovic |work=The Daily Telegraph |date=27 May 2002 |accessdate=2007-11-23] reflecting his long-time advocacy of international intervention in that region. He succeeded Wolfgang Petritsch in the position created under the Dayton Agreement. He is sometimes denigrated as "the Viceroy of Bosnia" by critics of his work as High Representative. [cite news |url= |title=Message from America: we're independent |author=Mark Steyn |work=The Daily Telegraph |date=7 July 2002 |accessdate=2007-11-23] [cite news |url= |title=Team Gordon: Michael White suggests his dream team for a Brown cabinet |author=Michael White |work=The Guardian |date=22 June 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-23 |quote=But even allowing for all that, it is hard to imagine such an energetic 66-year-old, a former viceroy of Bosnia, too, confining himself to the Northern Ireland brief, especially now that Messrs Paisley, Adams and co have taken an oath not to remember the past. With luck they won't leave much for Posh Paddy to do there.]

Witness for the prosecution at the trial of Slobodan Milošević

On 14 March 2002 Ashdown testified as a witness for the prosecution at the trial of Slobodan Milošević at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. [ [ Milošević trial transcript 14 March 2002 Page 2331 Line 24] ] He said that he was on the Kosovo-Albania border near Junik in June, 1998. [ [ Milošević trial transcript 14 March 2002 Page 2343 Line 21] ] From this location, through his binoculars, Ashdown claimed to have seen Serbian forces shelling several villages. [ [ Milošević trial transcript 14 March 2002 Page 2343 Line 25] ]

In July 2005 a defence witness, General Bozidar Delić, claimed to demonstrate with a topographical map of the area that Ashdown could not have been able to see the areas that he claimed to be able to see as hills, mountains and thick woods obstructed his view. [ [ Milošević trial transcript 7 July 2005 Page 42036 Line 7] & [ 12 July 2005 Page 42205 Line 1] ]

After the Delic claims, Ashdown supplied the Tribunal with grid coordinates and a cross section of the ground indicating that he could indeed see the locations concerned. [ [ Milošević trial transcript 28 September 2005 Page 44684 Line 1] ] These coordinates indicated he was on the Kosovo/ Albania border, which was a sealed border at the time. [ [ Milošević trial transcript 28 September 2005 Page 44721 Line 1] ] The prosecution also used some new maps indicating Ashdown's location, but their accuracy was challenged by Delić, as the location of a village was different from other maps of the area. [ [ Milošević trial transcript 28 September 2005 Pages 44721 to 44728] ]

UN representative for Afghanistan

He was also mentioned as a possible candidate to take charge of the allied effort in Afghanistan. [cite news |url= |title=Dismantling the Taleban is the aim |author=Paul Reynolds |work=BBC News website |date=12 December 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-23 |quote=One "big idea being pressed by the British government is for the appointment of a senior international figure to be the UN representative for Afghanistan. The name of Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, who ran Bosnia-Herzegovina after the civil war, has been mentioned.] [cite news |url= |title=Bush Faces Pressure to Shift War Priorities: As Iraq Calms, Focus Turns to Afghanistan |author=Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker |work=Washington Post |date=17 December 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-23 |quote=Administration officials said the White House is considering a range of steps to stem the erosion, including the appointment of a leading international political figure to try to better coordinate efforts in Afghanistan. European newspapers have focused on Paddy Ashdown, a British politician and envoy, but a former senior military officer said his appointment would be considered controversial and seems unlikely.] An unnamed source is quoted in a 16 January Reuters report indicating that Ashdown, when approached by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, accepted the post. [cite news |url= |title=Ashdown accepts job as U.N. Afghan envoy |author=Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker |work=Reuters |date=16 January 2008 |accessdate=2008-01-16 |quote=Paddy Ashdown has agreed to become the United Nations' envoy to Afghanistan, a source close to negotiations on the post said on Wednesday. "Yes, he has accepted the job," the source said of an agreement between Ashdown, 66, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.] He has now withdrawn his interest in taking the role, after Afghanistan said it preferred General Sir John McColl [ [ BBC News, 27 January 2008] .On March 7 2008 Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide [] was appointed as the UN representative for Afghanistan, stating "I'm not Paddy Ashdown, but don't under-estimate me." []

Personal life

Ashdown married Jane Courtenay in 1962. The couple have two children, Simon and Katharine, along with three grandchildren. In 1992 following the press becoming aware of a stolen document relating to a divorce case, he disclosed a five-month affair with his secretary, Patricia Howard, five years earlier. He and his marriage weathered the political and tabloid storm, with his wife of 30 years forgiving him, but headlines in the press were merciless – "The Sun" famously dubbed him "Paddy Pantsdown". [cite news |url=,9061,446036,00.html |title=End of the Ashdown era |author=Lucy Ward |work=The Guardian |date=21 January 1999 |accessdate=2007-11-22] cite news |url=,,459350,00.html |title=Sir Paddy Ashdown |author= Andrew Roth |work=The Guardian |date=19 March 2001 |accessdate=2007-11-22]


*Knight of the Order of the British Empire, 2000
*Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George, New Year Honours List, 2006 [LondonGazette |issue=57855 |date=31 December 2005 |startpage=N3 |supp=yes |accessdate=2008-07-31]


* Mr Paddy Ashdown (1941-1983)
* Mr Paddy Ashdown MP (1983-1989)
* The Rt. Hon. Paddy Ashdown MP (1989-2000)
* The Rt. Hon. Sir Paddy Ashdown KBE MP (2000-2001)
* The Rt. Hon. The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hambdon KBE PC (2001-2006)
* The Rt. Hon. The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hambdon GCMG KBE PC (2006-)



* "The Ashdown Diaries vol 1. 1988 – 1997", ISBN 0-14-029775-8
* "The Ashdown Diaries vol 2. 1997 – 1999", ISBN 0-14-029776-6
* "Swords And Ploughshares: Building Peace in the 21st Century" ISBN 0297853031

External links

* [ Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon] profile at the site of Liberal Democrats
* [ Office of the High Representative in BiH]
* [,2763,1606489,00.html "Farewell, Sarajevo"] , "The Guardian", 2 November 2005
* ['ashdown') Catalogue] of the papers of Paddy Ashdown at [ London School of Economics Archives]
* [ "After Iraq - Shall we ever intervene again?"] , lecture by Paddy Ashdown, given at Gresham College, 15 May 2007 (available for download as video or audio files)

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