LibLink: Olly Grender Paddy Ashdown leaves behind a legacy of profound decency and kindness

Olly Grender, who for so long was one of Paddy Ashdown’s closest colleagues, has written a lovely tribute to him in the New Statesman.

She highlights how he was willing to say things that weren’t popular but showed his commitment to liberal and humanitarian values:

“As Liberal Democrat leader (from 1988-1999) he “banged on about Bosnia” every week in parliament, to the groans of most MPs, but he was vindicated: a humanitarian atrocity was happening on Europe’s doorstep. He fought for the Hong Kong Chinese to obtain British citizenship, a deeply unpopular position but the right one. He inherited a political party on the verge of bankruptcy – financial and political – and by dint of personality built it back up again.

In 2015 – when most people in their seventies are planning retirement – he took on mission impossible and ran the post-coalition general election campaign. It was a grim, thankless task, which he delivered with his usual humour, energy and inspiration. 

Often he believed he was fighting all these battles on his own – “pushing a huge boulder up a mountain single-handed”.  He wasn’t; he leaves behind so many of us who would have willingly followed him anywhere. 

He loved having people around him who would give him an argument – he rarely employed people who agreed with him.  He grew and fostered countless careers. He always found time to give encouragement, mentoring and support to so many, from deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to the newest press officer in the party. The only payment he expected in return was fun company, a good argument and great gossip.

He leaves behind a legacy of showing the right way to be a politician in the turbulent times we live in – with tolerance, liberalism and social justice at the heart of his values.”

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Roger Roberts 28th Dec '18 - 9:03pm

    We could easily compile a volume of memories and tributes to Paddy and someone will I trust undertake the task. My recollections go to the years before he was adopted for Yeovil and when leader the many journeys he made to Conwy to support my candidature. We are sad when any of our colleagues passes away. On hearing this news of Paddy’s death, we wept. Thank you to jane and family whose backing helped him to be the person and leader he was.

  • David Warren 28th Dec '18 - 9:17pm

    The man had real gravitas and his work after leaving the leadership was exemplary.

    Another highlight was his refusal of cabinet post when it was offered by Gordon Brown.

    I heard him interviewed about it and he gave one of the best reasons for his rejection ‘I am a Liberal.’

    He was sat on his own while I was walking past at a Lib Dem conference that I attended. Really wish I’d stopped to introduce myself and have a brief chat.

  • I think it was the passion that I admired most. You were left in no doubt that what he was talking about mattered to him and that was sufficient to give my attention. That it also resonated with me when I gave the issue my attention created a bond that meant he could take me to unfamiliar territory and keep that attention.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Dec '18 - 9:42pm

    “he ‘banged on about Bosnia’ every week in parliament, to the groans of most MPs”.
    The Home Office implemented an exceptional leave policy for Bosnia.
    It was not necessary to produce a passport.
    A similar policy for China was refused.

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