Former Bedford School boy and ex-Liberal Democrats leader Paddy Ashdown has died aged 77 after a short battle with cancer.
Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable said it was “a hugely sad day” adding “he was famous for his politics but his talents extended well beyond that arena.”
Lord Ashdown attended Bedford School from 1952 to 1959. After serving as a Royal Marine and with the intelligence services he entered Parliament in 1983.
He went on to become the longest serving leader of the Lib Dems in its history and helped the party become a growing force in UK politics during his 11 year leadership from 1988 to 1999.
Fellow Liberal Democrat and Mayor of Bedford, Dave Hodgson, has also spoken of his sadness at the news: “He is a towering figure in the liberal movement, and someone I’m proud to have known and have worked with.
“Every time he came back to Bedford, as he did many times, he enjoyed reminiscing about old haunts from his school days and noticing how things had changed and also how they hadn’t.”
Lord Ashdown was an influential figure within the party and a strong supporter of Nick Clegg’s controversial decision to take the party into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
Former Lib Dem leader and ex-deputy PM Sir Nick Clegg told the BBC “Lord Ashdown was the most heartfelt person I have known. Paddy was the reason I entered politics… he became a lifelong mentor, friend and guide.”
Ex-Conservative prime minister Sir John Major has also spoken fondly of his former opponent, saying: “In Government, Paddy Ashdown was my opponent. In life, he was a much valued friend. His loss will be felt deeply by many – and not least by myself.
“A man of duty, passion, and devotion to the country he loved – right up to the very end.”