Paddy Ashdown’s autobiography has been hailed as one of the most readable and exciting political life stories ever written – precisely because it was so very much more.
This is the autobiography of an old-fashioned Man of Action, an adventurer, to be compared more readily to Fitzroy Maclean than David Steel. Ashdown’s years as MP for Yeovil and leader of the Liberal Democrats pale alongside his time as a Royal Marine Commando, in the Special Boat squadron, as a spy, on military service in Northern Ireland and Indonesia, and then subsequently – perhaps his finest and most heroic role, as the UN's High Representative in war-torn Bosnia. As one reviewer remarked: “This must be the first political memoir to offer advice on the best way to execute a jungle ambush and on how to treat an open wound using red ants.”
Paddy Ashdown, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, was perhaps the most unlikley leader the Liberal strand of British politics has ever had. A former captain in the Royal Marines, he became the first leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1988 and led them over the next 11 years to their best electoral results at that time for three-quarters of a century. Although he never quite achieved the parliamentary breakthrough he hoped for, still less a realignment of the parties of the left in coalition with Labour, the Lib Dems became a significant and influential third force in British politics. Ashdown’s appeal – which explains this books’s hardback bestseller status – is that he transcends party political allegiances, and is seen as a genuinely honest and decent man unafraid to take on the hardest challenges.
Jeremy John Durham (Paddy) Ashdown, politician, born 27 February 1941; died 22 December 2018