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Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, KBE, PC (born 27 February 1941), invariably known as Paddy Ashdown, is a British politician, who was leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 until 1999. He is now a life peer and is the international community's High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ashdown is the eldest of seven children and was born in New Delhi in India, where his father was a captain in the Indian Army, 14th Punjabis & RIASC and his mother was a QA. He was largely brought up in Northern Ireland (whence the nickname "Paddy") and educated at Bedford School, England. From 1959 to 1972 he served in the Royal Marines as an officer in the commandos and the Special Boat Service. After leaving the Marines, he worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in industry, and as a youth worker before being elected Liberal Member of Parliament for Yeovil in 1983. He has been accused of, but publicly denied, working for MI6 while a diplomat in Geneva in the '70s.
In the House of Commons he was SDP-Liberal Alliance spokesman on Trade and Industry and then on Education. After the merger that formed the Liberal Democrats, he was elected as the new party's leader. He led the Liberal Democrats in two general elections, in 1992 and 1997.
As leader he was a notable proponent of co-operation between the Liberal Democrats and the "New" Labour Party, and had regular secret meetings with Tony Blair to plan a coalition government. After Labour's 1997 victory a "joint Cabinet committee" - the Jenkins Commission, with Liberal Democrat peer Roy Jenkins as its chair - was established to consider electoral reform, Ashdown's key demand. The plan to bring Liberal Democrats into the government continued, according to Ashdown's published diaries, but foundered on opposition from senior Labour ministers.
After leaving British politics, he took up the post of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 27, 2002, reflecting his long-time advocacy of international intervention in that region. He succeeded Wolfgang Petritsch at that position created under the Dayton Agreement.
Ashdown is married with two children and two grandchildren. He is a gifted linguist, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and other languages. He took a liking to Bosnia and bought a summer house for himself near Jablanica in central Bosnia, which he intends to visit regularly when he retires.
- The Ashdown Diaries vol 1. 1988-1997 ISBN 0140297758
- The Ashdown Diaries vol 2. 1997-1999 ISBN 0140297766
- Liberal Democrats' Official Site: Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
- Office of the High Representative in BiH
|Leader of the|
British Liberal Democrats
|Office of the High Representative|
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