Former Lib Dem Leader Ashdown reflects on his life at Burgh House event

PUBLISHED: 13:12 23 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:13 23 October 2017

Paddy Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown


A night encompassing India’s partition, the armed forces, and the Liberal Democrats was held at Burgh House on October 17, as Paddy Ashdown spoke in the latest ‘Lifelines’ talk.

Ashdown, who lead the Lib Dems into the 1992 and 1997 elections reflected on his life, and spoke about his concerns for Britain outside the EU, and for the Balkans.

Born in New Delhi during the time of the British Raj in 1941, Ashdown recalls boarding a train to leave to move to Northern Ireland. He told the room of his reaction to getting off the train and seeing bloodshed. “We had come down through India in partition. It was one of the first riots. It was one of the times the flimsy veil that keeps civilisation together slips”, comparing India to Northern Ireland.

After his schooling at Bedford School, where he got the nickname ‘Paddy’, he spent time in the Royal Marines and Special Boat Section. He told those in attendance at Burgh House that it taught him to “never be afraid of being in a minority.” Advice that would serve him well. A former superior commented on his attitude, saying: “Colonel Ashdown’s men would follow him anywhere. Chiefly out of curiosity.”

Chaired by former Liberal Democrat councillor Linda Chung, she quizzed Paddy about his time in the Liberal Democrats. A former Labour supporter, he drifted away from the party and was converted to being a Liberal member. He later left his MI6 job in Geneva to join the party and run as candidate for Yeovil.

Ashdown won the Liberal Democrat leadership in 1988, and spoke about one of his greatest moments as leader, helping John Major’s government get the Maastricht Treaty vote passed in 1992, amid large-scale rebellions from the Conservative Party’s Euro-sceptics.

His opportunity to be part of government was taken away from him after negotiations with Tony Blair ahead of the 1997 election were rendered pointless by Labour’s landslide election win. “We talked at the time, and we felt that it would be undemocratic to add our 50-seats, our largest ever, to their 170 majority.”

After the election he announced his surprise decision to step down as leader. “I thought it was better to stand down and have people ask why you are going, rather than the opposite and have people ask why you’re not,” he said.

Now a member of the House of Lords, he followed his time lobbying for military action against Yugoslavia in the 1990s with four years as International High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country he still believes is in trouble. “There’s alarming levels of corruption there, and the European Union hasn’t done enough to stop it.”

The next Lifelines talk is set to take place on January 18 by author Helene Attlee.

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Friday, December 7, 2018

British Transport Police are looking to speak to a man about three women being racially abused on an underground train.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Carlton Tavern could be reopened in April, nine months after the planning inspectorate told them to rebuild it.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Coffee isn’t the only thing Deniz Korkmaz is brewing up in Kentish Town.

Friday, December 7, 2018

We chat to five local designers and artists who tell us about the one thing they must have or do at home that puts them in the Christmas mood

Friday, December 7, 2018

An application to redevelop a house in Swiss Cottage, owned by an off-shore company linked to an address in the Panama Papers and billionaire property mogul Sol Zakay, has been approved.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Two sisters from Muswell Hill were lucky enough to meet the Queen this week after playing a pivotal role in publication of a book about an adoption pioneer.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fears of rising knife crime dominated a community meeting held in West Hampstead last night, while local police called on vigilant locals to help them do their jobs by making sure to report crime.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.


Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now