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The Right Honourable
 The Lord Ashdown
of Norton-sub-Hamdon

In office
27 May 2002 – 30 May 2006
Preceded by Wolfgang Petritsch
Succeeded by Christian Schwarz-Schilling

In office
16 July 1988 – 11 August 1999
Preceded by David Steel (Liberal Party)
Robert Maclennan (SDP)
Succeeded by Charles Kennedy

Member of Parliament
for Yeovil
In office
9 June 1983 – 7 June 2001
Preceded by John Peyton
Succeeded by David Laws

Born 27 February 1941 (1941-02-27) (age 69)
New Delhi, British India
Nationality British
Political party (1) Liberal Party
(2) Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Jane Courtenay
Military service
Service/branch Royal Marines
Years of service 1959-1972
Unit Special Boat Service
Battles/wars Indonesian Confrontation

Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, GCMG, KBE, PC (born 27 February 1941), 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 May 2002 to 30 May 2006, following his vigorous lobbying for military action against Yugoslavia in the 1990s. A gifted polyglot, 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. In his 2009 autobiography, he revealed that he has worked as a spy for British intelligence.[1]


Early life

Ashdown is the eldest of seven children[2] and was born in New Delhi in British India[3], to a family of soldiers and colonial administrators who spent their lives in India.[4] His father was a lapsed Catholic, and his mother a Protestant.[5] His father, John Ashdown, was an Indian Army officer in the 14th Punjab Regiment, and the Indian Army Service Corps. During the retreat to Dunkirk in May 1940, John Ashdown ignored an order to abandon the Indian troops under his command, instead leading them to the port and onto one of the last ships to leave, without losing a single man. Although court martialed for disobeying orders, he was exonerated, and by the end of the War had risen to the rank of colonel.[6]

His mother was a QA nurse. He is a great great grandson of Daniel O'Connell, the Irish statesman and campaigner for Home Rule.[7]

Ashdown was largely brought up in Northern Ireland, where his father bought a farm in 1945[3] near Donaghadee[8]. He was educated first at a local primary school, then as a weekly boarder at Garth House Preparatory School in Bangor[8] and from age 11 at Bedford School in England, where his Irish accent earned him the nickname "Paddy".[8] At Bedford he "fagged" for “Ram” Seegar, who, intending on entering the Royal Marines, had Ashdown join him in doing basic RM physical training with him over normal fag duties, on which he commented "I was bullied early on, but then I learnt to fight".[8] To enable his family to continue his education, it was proposed he undertake the Royal Navy scholarship exam, for which he needed additional maths tuition, and resultantly lost his virginity to his female tutor.[1]

Royal Marines

After his father's business collapsed, he passed the naval scholarship to pay for his school fees,[1] but left before taking A-levels and joined the Royal Marines in 1959,[8] serving until 1972.[3] He served in Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation and the Persian Gulf[2] 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.[3] He then went to Hong Kong in 1967 to undertake a full-time interpreter's course in Chinese,[1] and returned to Britain in 1970 when he was given command of a Commando Company in Belfast.[3]


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.[9] He was responsible for the UK's relations with 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).[10]

It has been speculated that this "cushy but dull" job was a cover for a role with MI6,[9][11][12] but until publication of his autobiography in 2009, Ashdown refused to comment,[11] and still has not confirmed the organisation he worked for.[1]

Political career

Whilst in the Marines, Ashdown had been a supporter of the Labour Party,[9] but joined the Liberal Party in 1975,[9] and decided to leave his diplomatic career to enter Liberal politics in his wife's home town of Yeovil in Somerset.[9] 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.[4][10]

Ashdown had a comfortable life in Switzerland, where he lived with his wife Jane, and Simon and Katharine their two children in a large house on the shores of Lake Geneva, enjoying plenty of time for sailing, skiing and climbing.[9] 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".[13]

Yeovil's Liberal candidate had been placed second in February 1974[14] and third in the October 1974 general election[15], and Ashdown's objective was to "squeeze" the local Labour vote to enable him to defeat the Conservatives,[9] who had held the seat since its creation in 1918.[16]

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.[17] However, the Conservative majority of 11,382[17] 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.[18] The Labour vote fell to only 5.5% and Ashdown won the seat with a majority of over 3,000,[19] 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,[9] 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."[20]

Shortly after entering the House of Commons, he was appointed SDP-Liberal Alliance spokesman on Trade and Industry and then on Education.[10] He opposed the privatisation of the Royal Ordnance Factories 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.[9]

Leader of Liberal Democrats

Paddy Ashdown in Chippenham during the 1992 General Election campaign

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.[21]

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,[citation needed] although it is not clear if it was ever formally dissolved.[citation needed] 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,[citation needed] 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,[citation needed] but foundered on opposition from senior Labour ministers.[citation needed]

Resignation 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. In 2001 he was honoured with a Doctor of Letters degree by Bournemouth University.

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.[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

Paddy Ashdown with Colin Powell in 2004

After leaving British politics, he took up the post of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina on 27 May 2002,[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.[24][25]

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.[26] He said that he was on the Kosovo-Albania border near Junik in June, 1998.[27] From this location, through his binoculars, Ashdown claimed to have seen Serbian forces shelling several villages.[28]

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.[29]

After the Delić claims, Ashdown supplied the Tribunal with grid coordinates and a cross section of the ground indicating that he could indeed see the locations concerned.[30] These coordinates indicated he was on the Kosovo/ Albania border, which was a sealed border at the time.[31] 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.[32]

UN representative for Afghanistan

He was also mentioned as a possible candidate to take charge of the allied effort in Afghanistan.[33][34] 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.[35] He has now withdrawn his interest in taking the role, after Afghanistan said it preferred General Sir John McColl[36]. On March 7, 2008 Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide[37] was appointed as the UN representative for Afghanistan, stating "I'm not Paddy Ashdown, but don't under-estimate me." [38]

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".[9][39]



  • Paddy Ashdown (1941–1983)
  • 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-Hamdon, KBE, PC (2001–2006)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, GCMG, KBE, PC (2006–present)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Lover, commando, spy - the making of Paddy Ashdown". The Sunday Times. 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  2. ^ a b "Five facts about Paddy Ashdown". Reuters. 21 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Curriculum Vitae: Paddy Ashdown". Office of the High Representative (OHR) and EU Special Representative (EUSR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 27 May 2002. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  4. ^ a b "Action man bows out". BBC News online. 9 August 1999. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  5. ^ "Changes in our own hands". Nezavisne novine. 29 October 2002. Retrieved 2007-11-23. ""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." 
  6. ^ The Guardian: Ashdown tells how father stood by Indian troops
  7. ^ The Ashdown Diaries, Vol 1
  8. ^ a b c d e Jonathan Sale (18 October 2001). "An education in the life of Lord Ashdown: 'I was bullied early on, but then I learnt to fight'". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Andrew Roth (19 March 2001). "Sir Paddy Ashdown". The Guardian.,,459350,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  10. ^ a b c "Who's Who: Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG KBE". Liberal Democrats website. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  11. ^ a b "Ashdown "was MI6 agent'". Birmingham Post. 2 September 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "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." 
  12. ^ "The view from the Bridge". Lobster magazine (47). 2004. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "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". 
  13. ^ John-Paul Flintoff (24 October 2003). "Bridge builder". Financial Times website. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  14. ^ "UK General Election results February 1974: Yeovil". Richard Kimber's political science resources. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  15. ^ "UK General Election results October 1974: Yeovil". Richard Kimber's political science resources. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  16. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918-1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-06-X. 
  17. ^ a b "UK General Election results May 1979: Yeovil". Richard Kimber's political science resources. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  18. ^ Byron Criddle and Robert Waller (2002). Almanac of British Politics. Routledge. p. 841. ISBN 0415268338. 
  19. ^ "UK General Election results June 1983: Yeovil". Richard Kimber's political science resources. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  20. ^ Julian Lewis (28 November 1996). "Nuclear record hard to defend". Western Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  21. ^ "Privy Councillors". Leigh Rayment's Privy Councillors Pages. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  22. ^ "Brown offered Ashdown Cabinet job". BBC News online. 21 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  23. ^ Alex Todorovic (27 May 2002). "Ashdown takes over in Bosnia". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  24. ^ Mark Steyn (7 July 2002). "Message from America: we're independent". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  25. ^ Michael White (22 June 2007). "Team Gordon: Michael White suggests his dream team for a Brown cabinet". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "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." 
  26. ^ Milošević trial transcript 14 March 2002 Page 2331 Line 24
  27. ^ Milošević trial transcript 14 March 2002 Page 2343 Line 21
  28. ^ Milošević trial transcript 14 March 2002 Page 2343 Line 25
  29. ^ Milošević trial transcript 7 July 2005 Page 42036 Line 7 & 12 July 2005 Page 42205 Line 1
  30. ^ Milošević trial transcript 28 September 2005 Page 44684 Line 1
  31. ^ Milošević trial transcript 28 September 2005 Page 44721 Line 1
  32. ^ Milošević trial transcript 28 September 2005 Pages 44721 to 44728
  33. ^ Paul Reynolds (12 December 2007). "Dismantling the Taleban is the aim". BBC News website. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "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." 
  34. ^ Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker (17 December 2007). "Bush Faces Pressure to Shift War Priorities: As Iraq Calms, Focus Turns to Afghanistan". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "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." 
  35. ^ Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker (16 January 2008). "Ashdown accepts job as U.N. Afghan envoy". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-01-16. "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." 
  36. ^ BBC News, 27 January 2008
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ Lucy Ward (21 January 1999). "End of the Ashdown era". The Guardian.,9061,446036,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  40. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57855, p. N3, 31 December 2005. Retrieved on 2008-07-31.


  • 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
  • A Fortunate Life: The Autobiography of Paddy Ashdown ISBN 9781845134198

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Peyton
Member of Parliament for Yeovil
1983 – 2001
Succeeded by
David Laws
Party political offices
Preceded by
David Steel
and Robert Maclennan
Leader of the British
Liberal Democrats

Succeeded by
Charles Kennedy
Political offices
Preceded by
Wolfgang Petritsch
High Representative for
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Succeeded by
Christian Schwarz-Schilling


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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. He is a former Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat party and former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002-2006.


  • History teaches us these lessons for the interveners: leave your prejudices at home, keep your ambitions low, have enough resources to do the job, do not lose the golden hour, make security your first priority, involve the neighbours.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

File:Paddy Ashdown
Paddy Ashdown was the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Jeremy John Durham 'Paddy' Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (born February 27, 1941 in New Delhi, British India) is a British politician and International diplomat. He was the leader of the Liberal Democrats from July 1988 to August 1999.

Paddy Ashdown was brought up in Northern Ireland and his Irish accent earned him the nickname 'Padddy'. He served in the Royal Marines from 1959 to 1972 and saw fighting in Borneo, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland. At the 1983 General Election, Paddy Ashdown became the Liberal Party Member of Parliament for the constituency of Yeovil. In 1988, when the Liberal Party merged with the Social Democratic Party to form the Liberal Democrats, Ashdown was elected the leader of the new party and led the party through the 1992 and 1997 General Elections. He resigned in 2000 and was given both a knighthood and a seat in the House of Lords. In the House of Lords, he was given the name Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. From 2002 to 2006 he was the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

His reputation was damaged slightly in 1992, when it was revealed that he had a six-month extra-marital affair with his secretary and many British newspapers exposed this in great detail. The Sun newspaper ran a famous headline which played on Asdown's name, calling him 'Paddy Pants-Down'.

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