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Rt Hon Lord Paddy Ashdown Image

Rt Hon Lord Paddy Ashdown

Rt Hon Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG KBE PC

Paddy Ashdown was born in New Delhi on 27 February 1941, the eldest of 7 children. When he was 4 years old, his family returned to Britain to buy a farm in Ulster. He was educated at Bedford School. Between 1959 and 1972 he served as a Royal Marines Officer and saw active service as a Commando Officer in Borneo and the Persian Gulf. After Special Forces Training in England in 1965, he commanded a Special Boat Section in the Far East. He went to Hong Kong in 1967 to undertake a full-time course in Chinese, returning to England in 1970 with a First Class interpretership in Mandarin (accepted as the equivalent of a first class degree by the Civil Service). He was then given command of a Commando Company in Belfast.

In 1972 Paddy left the Royal Marines and joined the Foreign Office. He was posted to the British Mission to the United Nations in Geneva where he was responsible for Britain's relations with a number of United Nations organisations and took part in the negotiation of several international treaties and agreements between 1974 and 1976. He was also involved in some aspects of the European Security Conference (the Helsinki Conference).

After leaving the Foreign Office Paddy worked in local industry in the Yeovil area in South-West England between 1976 and 1981, firstly as a senior manager in the Commercial Department with the Westlands Group (Normalair Garrett) and then as Head of Personnel and, later as a divisional head with the Morlands' Yeovil-based subsidiary called Tescan until the demise of Morlands in 1980. In 1981, Paddy went to work as a Youth Worker with the Dorset County Council Youth Service, where he was responsible for initiatives to help the young unemployed.

He stood as the Liberal Parliamentary candidate for the Yeovil constituency in 1979 and raised the Liberal vote there to its highest ever level. Shortly after entering Parliament in the 1983 General Elections, Paddy was appointed as the Liberal spokesman on Trade and Industry Affairs within the Liberal/SDP Alliance team at the House of Commons. He became Education spokesman in January 1987. He was elected Leader of the Liberal Democrats in July 1988 and was appointed as a Privy Councilor on 1 January 1989. In the 1997 General Election he further increased his majority in his Yeovil constituency to over 11,000. Paddy stood down as the leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1999 and retired from the Commons in 2001. He was made a KBE in 2000 and a peer in 2001. Lord Ashdown was awarded the GCMG in the 2006 New Year’s Honours List, for his work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paddy was one of the leading advocates for decisive action by the international community. He argued strongly that this would help bring the conflict to an early close, and that this was in the interests of all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina whatever their ethnic background. He visited the country many times during the conflict and subsequently. Lord Ashdown was the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the 27thMay 2002 until the 31st January 2006. 

On return to Britain in 2006, he was awarded the GCMG for his work in Bosnia.. He is now acknowledged as one of the foremost experts on the Balkans region in Europe. 

In mid 2008 he declined Gordon Brown’s invitation to join his Cabinet, shortly before he became Prime Minister because Paddy said he could not agree with the Government’s policies, especially in respect of the erosion of our Civil Liberties. 

Later that year, Paddy was asked by the US Government and the UN Secretary General to take up the post as the head of the International Mission in Afghanistan, but this was subsequently vetoed by the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.

In 2009, Paddy co-chaired, with Lord George Robertson, the much acclaimed IPPR review into Britain’s long term security needs.

He currently writes articles on foreign affairs matters, especially Afghanistan and Bosnia, for national newspapers and periodicals.

He is currently on the Advisory Boards of the Good Government Group, Defence Strategies and Solutions and Silverline.

Paddy has written eight books; Citizen’s Britain, Beyond Westminster, The Ashdown Diaries Volumes One and Two and his best-selling autobiography, A Fortunate Life, A Brilliant Little Operation (which won the Military History Prize for 2103) and The Cruel Victory.

He is married to Jane and they have two children and three grandchildren.

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