British politician, leader of the Liberal Democrats 1988–1999 (knighted in 2000 and made a peer in 2001).
Educated at Bedford School, Ashdown enlisted in the Royal Marines in 1959, rising to the rank of captain, with command of the 2 Special Boat Squadron. A gifted linguist, he served with the British UN mission to Geneva from 1971 to 1976. In 1983 he captured the safe Tory seat of Yeovil for the Liberals and was almost immediately tipped as a future party leader. He became Liberal spokesman on trade and industry (1983–86) and education and science (1987). In July 1988 he was elected leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats, formed from a merger of the Liberals and the Social Democratic Party earlier that year and later renamed Liberal Democrats. During his ten years as leader he has adopted a high public profile, especially in his interventions on foreign affairs, and is widely credited with reversing the decline in his party's fortunes during the late 1980s.
Subjects: Politics — British History.