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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Paddy Ashdown 1941-2018 RIP

December 22nd is a sad day for Liberal Democrats. In 1986, on this day we lost David Penhaligon. Yesterday, we lost Paddy Ashdown.

I met Paddy and campaigned with him on a number of occasions. He was a man of extraordinary passion and energy, a great champion for the under-represented and the oppressed, deeply committed to social justice and a strong advocate for devolution and for Europe.

He was an internationalist as much as he was a local politician, a statesman as much as he was a party leader, a patriot and a liberal. As Olly Grender says in her tweet, he leaves a hole the size of a planet.

My anecdotes cannot compare with those of others, and in any case the one I use most is really about Lembit Opik. Paddy was on a whirlwind tour of Wales and for some reason had allowed Lembit to fly him between destinations. Myself and a number of Liberal Democrats were deputed to meet him at Swansea airport.

Conditions at the airport were far from perfect, and the control tower lacked modern equipment to guide a plane in. This did not deter Lembit, who landed the plane nevertheless, rocking and rolling as he did so. Paddy emerged ashen-faced. His experience in the military had made him all too aware of the risks involved, possibly more so than the pilot.

Although, the Welsh Liberal Democrats entered government after Paddy ceased to be leader, he took great pride in our accomplishments, making a point of coming up to me in conference shortly afterwards and greeting me as 'minister'.

He was a rock on which we rebuilt our party, an inspirational leader who took us to previously unimagined heights, and although I disagreed with him on many of his tactics, I am proud to have served in a party he led with such verve and principle.
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