Lord Ashdown (Paddy) has died after a short illness. He was a big politician in the best sense of the word, who seemed to be one of those indefatigable people who would always be there dispensing his wisdom and enthusiasm. A great loss. A wonderful person.
I didn’t get to meet him apart from when he signed a copy of his book for me after a talk describing his upbringing and how he became such a committed and successful Liberal Democrat. I was struck by how his remarkable career evolved and how he became a Liberal. This was well set out in the Guardian obituary and it includes this quotation from his memoirs “the decision (to become a politician) was naïve to the point of irresponsibility; it just happens to be the best decision I made in my life.”
Ashdown will be best remembered for transforming the Liberal Democrats into an effective third party – gaining the best ever result in the 1997 election – and for serving as the United Nations’ high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006. He oversaw the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, which has kept the peace in the Balkans since the Bosnian war.
He was generously praised by politicians from across the spectrum after news of his death emerged. He was an ardent pro-European and tireless campaigner. He built relationships across political parties. He is a great loss to the Liberal Democrats and to the country – especially as we face the uncertainties looming in 2019. Sad though the mess we have got ourselves into is, we do have to put some trust in there being people like Paddy Ashdown who will work across parties to make the best of a bad job.
Paddy Ashdown’s unique campaigning zeal is what we Liberal Democrats need more than ever in working to secure a solution that addresses all our deepest concerns.
On that note I wish you all an optimistic New Year, which we, and the country, can all hopefully enjoy in 2019.
Richard Waller – Chair of Elmbridge Liberal Democrats