Tributes paid to former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown at funeral

Ashdown, who died aged 77 last month, remembered for his ‘openness and tolerance’

The former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has been remembered at a private funeral in the Somerset village where he lived.

John Major joined Ashdown’s widow, Jane, and other friends and family at the service on Thursday in St Mary’s church, Norton Sub Hamdon, which was billed as an occasion to celebrate the life of the former marine.

Lord Ashdown died aged 77 on 22 December, two months after revealing he was being treated for bladder cancer.

His body was carried into the church in a wicker casket. As well as the 40 or so people in the church, hundreds watched the service on TV screens in the village hall.

Speaking at the service, Myles Wickstead, a local Lib Dem and friend of Ashdown, said he had “espoused the values of openness and tolerance, and he found them in this village which he loved”.

Wickstead added: “He was never happier than when at the Lord Nelson on a Friday night, indulging in a mixture of arguments, fun, gossip, banter and, of course, drink.

“Our community and our country now are poorer that Paddy has gone.”

Ashdown was christened Jeremy, but given the nickname Paddy when he went to school in England after spending his childhood years in Northern Ireland.

The Rev Peter Thomas, who led the service, said: “Locally, you wouldn’t get away with any other name. God also knew him as Paddy, not Jeremy, and probably didn’t call him Lord.”

Ashdown led the Lib Dems for 11 years from 1988 and was credited with increasing the party’s popularity. This was reflected in a rise in the number of MPs and notable successes in local council elections.

He remained active in politics after stepping down as leader and the ardent pro-European was still commenting on what he called the “Brexit shambles” weeks before his death.

Ashdown quit the House of Commons in 2001 to become the UN high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, a position he held for four years.

David Laws, who succeeded Ashdown as the MP for Yeovil and would later serve in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition cabinet, was present. There was also a woman accompanied by a pony sporting yellow party rosettes. The current Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, paid tribute to Ashdown on Twitter.

My thoughts are with Paddy’s family on this sad day. His tremendous contribution, to the party, the country and the international stage will all be long remembered. https://t.co/q0H3XqS9zG

— Vince Cable (@vincecable) January 10, 2019

Contributor

Haroon Siddique and agency

The GuardianTramp

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