Somerset

Memorial held for ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Paddy Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Paddy Ashdown was selected as the Liberal candidate in Yeovil in 1976, but it took until the 1983 election for him to win the seat

A memorial service has been held to honour former MP and Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.

Lord Ashdown was described in tributes as "hard working and courageous" and an "all round good guy".

His widow Jane said her husband was so committed to public service he had "duty written underneath his skin".

She and the couple's children, Simon and Kate, were joined by about 300 people at the service at St John's Church, Yeovil.

Lord Ashdown died in December aged 77, two months after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Image caption The memorial service was held at St John's church in Yeovil on Wednesday

Among those paying tribute to him were his successor, Yeovil MP David Laws, and the Lib Dems' former MP for Wells, Tessa Munt.

Mr Laws listed Paddy's attributes as his "compassion and commitment to service", "hard work" and "courage".

He remembers the advice Paddy gave him as he succeeded him in 2001: "He took me aside and gave me some very clear advice: 'In your speeches, make a maximum of three points, politicians can't grasp more than three of anything'.

"He never seemed to rest, and even in an occupation in which many work hard, he was really quite exceptional.

"Every hour of the day was filled with activity and never as a spectator. He was an outstanding constituency MP for our area."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The former leader of the Liberal Democrats was described as "hard working and courageous"

Jeremy John Durham Ashdown was given the nickname Paddy when he moved to England, after spending his childhood in Northern Ireland.

In 1976, he was selected as the Liberal candidate in his wife's home constituency of Yeovil, but it took until the 1983 election for him to win the seat.

He went on to become the first elected and longest serving leader of the Liberal Democrats, between 1988 and 1999.

During his time as the United Nation's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he forced through major political, economic and security reforms.

His wife remembers that during this time he was either loved or hated: "They either put a price on his head or hugged him to death, it was one or the other."

She said her husband would want to be remembered as "an all round good guy" and added: "He was one of those people who, if you peeled back the first couple of layers of skin, there was 'duty' written underneath."

Image copyright Barry Batchelor
Image caption Paddy and Jane Ashdown were married for 56 years

More on this story