Birth of Paddy Ashdown, Liberal Democrat leader 1988-1999

After a career in the Royal Marines, the Special Boat Squadron, intelligence and diplomacy, Ashdown was selected as Liberal candidate in Yeovil in 1976 and won the seat in 1983. A supporter of the Lib-Lab Pact and the Alliance with the SDP, Ashdown was elected the first leader of the merged Social and Liberal Democrats in 1988 beating Alan Beith. In 1997 Ashdown led the Liberal Democrats to their best performance in an election since the 1930s. Hopes of a partnership government with Labour were defeated by Labour’s landslide majority but Ashdown did not give up on ‘the project’ with Tony Blair and some constitutional reforms long argued for by Liberals were achieved, notably devolved assemblies and PR for Euro elections and London. Ashdown stood down from the leadership in 1999 and from the Commons in 2001 when he went to the Lords as Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. He then left frontline UK politics to become High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ashdown wrote a number of books, including two volumes of diaries covering his period as leader and several books of military history. He was appointed a Companion of Honour in 2015. Ashdown died in December 2018 after a short illness.