Paddy Ashdown

Former Royal Marine Paddy Ashdown Praised As Man Of 'Ideals' At Westminster Abbey Service

A service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in honour of the former Liberal Democrat leader has been held.

Paddy Ashdown

Former Liberal Democrats leader Paddy Ashdown died in December (Picture: PA).

Former Royal Marine Lord Paddy Ashdown was a man for "ideals, not shabby deals", a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in honour of the former Liberal Democrat leader has heard.

Tory ex-prime minister Sir John Major paid the glowing tribute to a man he said was a "spontaneous optimist" as he addressed a congregation that included fellow ex-premiers Tony Blair, David Cameron and Gordon Brown.

Lord Ashdown died at the age of 77 in December 2018, two months after revealing he was being treated for bladder cancer.

Describing Lord Ashdown as a "political opponent who became a friend", Sir John said: "Not one moment of Paddy's life and times was ever wasted.

"He was always an internationalist, wedded to reason and consensus and dismissive of tribal politics. A man for ideals, not shabby deals."

Paddy Ashdown
Lord Ashdown served more than a decade in the military (Picture: PA).

Born into an Army family, Paddy Ashdown joined the Royal Marines straight out of school.

He served in Borneo and Malaya before going on to join the Special Boat Service and then leading a commando company in his native Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

In 1983, he then became the MP for Yeovil, his home town, he was then elected as the Liberal Democrat leader in 1988, a position he held until 1999.

He then served as high commissioner for Bosnia and Herzegovina where Sir John said he faced death threats with customary humour.

The ex-PM told the service that when Lord Ashdown was informed Serbian gangsters had put a two million euro price on his head, he replied: "It's not enough."

Lord Ashdown shrugged off fears put to him by officials that the gangsters could try to kill him by blowing up a petrol station next to his office.

Sir John said: "Paddy asked, 'Has anyone here ever tried to blow up a petrol station? Well, I have, and it isn't easy'.

"Paddy never claimed to be a saint, but he was a good man. Bigotry and injustice had no place in his world."