Ashdown, Sir Jeremy John Durham

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Ashdown, Sir Jeremy John Durham ( ‘Paddy’) (b. 1941). Liberal Democrat Party leader. Ashdown served in the Marines and in the diplomatic service before election to Parliament for Yeovil in 1983. He succeeded Sir David Steel as party leader in 1988 and presided over a very successful recovery from the difficulties of the alliance with the Social Democrats. His party held ten seats when he became leader, rising to 47 at the general election of 1997. Ashdown edged the party nearer to Labour, partly because of personal rapport with Tony Blair, partly in the hope of winning a measure of proportional representation, and Liberals co-operated with Labour in the Scottish Parliament and in the Welsh Assembly. He became an effective parliamentary and television performer, particularly on foreign affairs, where he could draw on previous experience. The accusation of sanctimoniousness is one directed at many leaders of minority parties which do not have responsibility in government. In 1999 he made way for Charles Kennedy as leader, and retired from the Commons in 2001, taking a life peerage.

J. A. Cannon