Former MP Sir Bob Russell pays tribute to ‘great Parliamentarian’ Lord Paddy Ashdown

Lord Paddy Ashdown, who has died aged 77, photographed in Colchester while campaigning for Sir Bob

Lord Paddy Ashdown, who has died aged 77, photographed in Colchester while campaigning for Sir Bob Russell. Picture: PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Former Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell has paid tribute to “my friend and colleague” Lord Paddy Ashdown whose death was announced on Saturday evening.

Sir Bob, who was Liberal Democrat MP for the town for 18 years from 1997 to 2015, said: “Paddy Ashdown was a great Parliamentarian, and I am honoured to call him both a friend and colleague – someone who did so much to make it possible for me to be elected MP for Colchester.”

Tributes have poured in from across politics for the former Liberal Democrat leader, who has died aged 77 following a short illness.

The former party leader, who was credited with making the Lib Dems a significant third force in politics during his tenure between 1988 and 1999, had announced he was suffering from bladder cancer in November.

Sir Bob said: “Paddy visited Colchester half-a-dozen times, both before and after I was elected as the first Liberal Democrat MP in the East of England, and I believe it was this personal commitment by him that helped me secure a narrow victory in a three-way marginal.

“Those visits by Paddy made it clear to everyone that the Liberal Democrats were serious about winning Colchester – and this was enough to help me win. I shall always be grateful to Paddy for his personal commitment to me and to Colchester.”

“I first got to know him, in person, in 1995, when I was selected as candidate for Colchester – the top target seat for the Liberal Democrats in the East of England.

Most Read

“And once I was elected two years later I obviously got to know him more, as a Parliamentary colleague. He was always friendly and supportive, and I think he – as a former military man – particularly liked the fact that I was MP for a garrison town.

“He would always engage MPs in discussions. He was engaging in a very pleasant way, with a lovely sense of humour. I recall Paddy’s mischievous comments when his local football team Yeovil, from the town where he was MP, thrashed Colchester United one year.

“Parliament and the country, not just the Liberal Democrats, have lost someone who contributed so much. I shall always be grateful for his support to me, for it was his personal commitment which led me being elected MP for Colchester.”

Sir Vince Cable and past Lib Dem leaders joined Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and others including Tony Blair in hailing the dedication and decency of the politician and former commando.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter