Ashdown, former leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats, dies

LONDON, Dec 22 - Paddy Ashdown, a former British politician, soldier and diplomat, has died after a short illness, his Liberal Democrat party said on Saturday. He was 77.

Ashdown led the Liberals for 11 years from 1988, steering it to become a force in British politics to challenge the duopoly of the Conservatives, home to Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and the Labour Party of Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn.

A former Special Boat Service commando, he entered parliament in 1983 and was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats five years later. He later held other roles such as High Commissioner for Bosnia Herzegovina.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that Paddy Ashdown passed away earlier this evening following a short illness," the party said on Twitter.

"Paddy will be desperately missed by everyone at the Liberal Democrats as a dear friend and colleague, and remembered as someone who made an immeasurable contribution to furthering the cause of liberalism."

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