Paddy Ashdown, the leader of British member party the UK Liberal Democrats from 1988 to 1999 - following the merger between the British Liberals and the Social-Democratic Party, died suddenly just days before Christmas at the age of 77 following a short illness.
In the 1990s, Lord Ashdown, led the party for 11 years from when the poll rating was represented with an * to their best electoral result for three quarters of a century, and he transformed his party in a major political force.
Lib Dem Party President Baroness Sal Brinton tweeted: “So sad to hear of Paddy Ashdown’s death. He was liberal to his core, and a wonderful leader, using his army leadership skills to build and grow the party. I knew him for 30 years: he was generous with his time and energy. It was a privilege to work with him.”
Current LibDem leader Sir Vince Cable said: “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.”
“Paddy was famous for his politics, but his talents extended well beyond that arena. He was an accomplished author and had spent many years serving the country before he got near the House of Commons. 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,” he added.
“He inspired the Liberal Democrats from a polling position he famously described as ‘represented by an asterisk’, to become a formidable campaigning force laying the ground for the strength which later took the party into government.”
“In recent years, he has been a powerful voice of real significance to the pro-European cause. He will be sadly missed in all parts of politics and Parliament.”
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 @paddyashdown. He was famous for his politics but his talents extended well beyond that arena. RIP. https://t.co/Zq8issvSzC
Sir Nick Clegg, who led the party from 2007 to 2015, said he was “the most heartfelt person I have known [and] the reason I entered politics. He was the reason I became a liberal. And he became a lifelong mentor, friend and guide.”
Lord Ashdown was also a staunch supporter and powerful voice for the pro-European cause in the United Kingdom in recent years. He was aghast at the direction the country has been taking, and as ever did all he could to campaign for a change of course.
His passing was also felt in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he served for four years as the United Nations’ High Representative.
ALDE Party member party Nasa Stranka paid tribute, writing: “Paddy Ashdown was a great friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also to Nasa Stranka. Losing such friends is hard to get over, but the comfort is that he always made us new friends, wherever he was, he was talking positive about BiH. Peace to his soul.”
Fellow ALDE Party member party Liberalno Demokratska Stranka (LDS) together with the association of intellectuals (KRUG 99) and young people gathered under Liberal Forum of Bosnia and Herzegovina organised a commemorative meeting in Sarajevo on 27 December to mark the loss of Lord Ashdown. They adopted a joint statement.
His obituary for the Guardian newspaper shared words from his own memoirs on how he became a Liberal: “I definitely remember that he wore an orange anorak, looked unprepossessing and had a squeaky voice to match ... My memory may be playing tricks when it tells me he also had sandals and a wispy beard. I told him pretty roughly that I certainly would not vote Liberal unless (which I considered highly unlikely) he could persuade me that I should. I don’t know quite what happened next. But two hours later, having discussed liberalism at length in our front room, I discovered that this was what I had really always been ... Liberalism was an old coat that had been hanging in my cupboard ... just waiting to be taken down and put on.”
An online condolence book has been created where you are invited to leave your message of condolence: www.libdems.org.uk/book-of-condolence-paddy-ashdown