John Smith (Labour Party leader)
John Smith was a British Labour politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party from July 1992 until his death from a heart attack in May 1994. Smith first entered Parliament in 1970 and, after junior ministerial roles as Minister of State for Energy and Minister of State for the Privy Council Office, he entered the Cabinet at the end of James Callaghan's tenure as Prime Minister, serving as Secretary of State for Trade and President of the Board of Trade. During Labour's time in Opposition to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, he rose through the Shadow Cabinet, serving as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy, Shadow Secretary of State for Employment, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. After Labour leader Neil Kinnock resigned following the Party's surprise loss in the 1992 general election to new Conservative leader John Major, Smith was elected his successor in July 1992, he continued Kinnock's moves to reform Labour, abolishing the trade union block vote at Labour party conferences and replacing it with "one member, one vote" at the 1993 party conference.
However, his overall cautious approach to reform, dubbed "one more heave", sought to avoid controversy and win the next election by capitalising on the unpopularity of the Conservative government. This frustrated many modernisers like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and after Smith's sudden death in May 1994, he was succeeded as Leader by Blair, who undertook the subsequent re-branding of Labour as New Labour, winning the 1997 general election in a landslide. Smith was born at Baddarroch, Argyll, the eldest of three children of Sarah Cameron, née Scott and Archibald Leitch Smith. At the time of Smith's birth, his father was schoolmaster at Portnahaven, however two years he became the headmaster of the primary school at Ardrishaig, which Smith went on to attend. From September 1952, Smith attended Dunoon Grammar School, lodging in the town with a landlady and going home during the school holidays, before enrolling at the University of Glasgow, he studied History from 1956-1959, Law, from 1959-1962.
He joined the Labour Party in 1955. He became involved in debating with the Glasgow University Dialectic Society and the Glasgow University Union. In 1962, he won The Observer Mace debating competition. In 1995, after his death, the competition was renamed the John Smith Memorial Mace in his honour. In 1963, he became a solicitor and in 1967, an advocate at the Scottish bar, supplementing his income by working as a libel lawyer for the Daily Record and the Sunday Mail. Smith first stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate at a by-election in 1961 in the East Fife constituency. At the 1970 general election, he was elected as Member of Parliament for North Lanarkshire succeeding Margaret Herbison. Smith made his maiden speech on 10 November 1970, opposing the Conservative government's Family Income Supplements Act 1970. On 28 October 1971, Smith defied the Labour whips in joining Labour MPs led by Roy Jenkins to vote in favour of entry to the European Economic Community; these included Roy Hattersley, Shirley Williams, Bill Rodgers and David Owen, all of whom he was to sit with in the Callaghan cabinet.
In February 1974 Smith declined Harold Wilson's offer of the office of Solicitor General for Scotland, not wishing his political career to become sidelined as a law officer. In October, he was made an Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Energy. In December 1975, he was made a Minister of State. Smith supported James Callaghan in the Labour Party leadership election after Wilson resigned in April 1976; when Callaghan became Prime Minister, Smith became a Minister of State at the Privy Council Office, serving with Labour's Deputy leader, Michael Foot, the Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. In this position, Smith piloted the controversial devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales through the House of Commons. Smith's adroit handling of these proposals impressed Callaghan, in November 1978, when Edmund Dell retired, Callaghan appointed Smith Secretary of State for Trade. In this post, Smith was the youngest member of the cabinet, served there until the 1979 general election.
Smith was voted to the Shadow Cabinet in the elections of June 1979 and would be re-elected every year until 1992. Smith became Shadow Energy Secretary. In the Labour leadership election of November 1980, Smith voted for Denis Healey over Michael Foot. Smith remained in the Labour Party after figures on the right of the party formed the breakaway Social Democratic Party, remarking: "I am comfortable with the unions, they aren't. That's the big difference". Smith voted for Healey in the deputy leadership election of September 1981, he became a QC in the same year that his constituency became Monklands East. During the 1983 general election, Smith concentrated on unemployment, arguing that the Conservatives had caused deindustrialisation and that a Labour government would increase investment, therefore employment. Smith received over 50 % of the vote in Monklands East. Smith acted as Roy Hattersley's campaign manager in the leadership election and the deputy leadership election. After serving a year as Shadow Employment Secretary, Smith was Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry between late 1984 and 1987.
Smith suffered a heart attack on 9 October 1988, was forced to spend three months away from Westminster to recover. On that o
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation; the local authority is Manchester City Council. The recorded history of Manchester began with the civilian settlement associated with the Roman fort of Mamucium or Mancunium, established in about AD 79 on a sandstone bluff near the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell, it was a part of Lancashire, although areas of Cheshire south of the River Mersey were incorporated in the 20th century. The first to be included, was added to the city in 1931. Throughout the Middle Ages Manchester remained a manorial township, but began to expand "at an astonishing rate" around the turn of the 19th century. Manchester's unplanned urbanisation was brought on by a boom in textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution, resulted in it becoming the world's first industrialised city.
Manchester achieved city status in 1853. The Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, creating the Port of Manchester and directly linking the city to the Irish Sea, 36 miles to the west, its fortune declined after the Second World War, owing to deindustrialisation, but the IRA bombing in 1996 led to extensive investment and regeneration. In 2014, the Globalisation and World Cities Research Network ranked Manchester as a beta world city, the highest-ranked British city apart from London. Manchester is the third-most visited city after London and Edinburgh, it is notable for its architecture, musical exports, media links and engineering output, social impact, sports clubs and transport connections. Manchester Liverpool Road railway station was the world's first inter-city passenger railway station. Manchester hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games; the name Manchester originates from the Latin name Mamucium or its variant Mancunium and the citizens are still referred to as Mancunians. These are thought to represent a Latinisation of an original Brittonic name, either from mamm- or from mamma.
Both meanings are preserved in Insular Celtic languages, such as mam meaning "breast" in Irish and "mother" in Welsh. The suffix -chester is a survival of Old English ceaster and from that castra in latin for camp or settlement; the Brigantes were the major Celtic tribe in. Their territory extended across the fertile lowland of what is now Stretford. Following the Roman conquest of Britain in the 1st century, General Agricola ordered the construction of a fort named Mamucium in the year 79 to ensure that Roman interests in Deva Victrix and Eboracum were protected from the Brigantes. Central Manchester has been permanently settled since this time. A stabilised fragment of foundations of the final version of the Roman fort is visible in Castlefield; the Roman habitation of Manchester ended around the 3rd century. After the Roman withdrawal and Saxon conquest, the focus of settlement shifted to the confluence of the Irwell and Irk sometime before the arrival of the Normans after 1066. Much of the wider area was laid waste in the subsequent Harrying of the North.
Thomas de la Warre, lord of the manor and constructed a collegiate church for the parish in 1421. The church is now Manchester Cathedral; the library, which opened in 1653 and is still open to the public today, is the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom. Manchester is mentioned as having a market in 1282. Around the 14th century, Manchester received an influx of Flemish weavers, sometimes credited as the foundation of the region's textile industry. Manchester became an important centre for the manufacture and trade of woollens and linen, by about 1540, had expanded to become, in John Leland's words, "The fairest, best builded and most populous town of all Lancashire." The cathedral and Chetham's buildings are the only significant survivors of Leland's Manchester. During the English Civil War Manchester favoured the Parliamentary interest. Although not long-lasting, Cromwell granted it the right to elect its own MP. Charles Worsley, who sat for the city for only a year, was appointed Major General for Lancashire and Staffordshire during the Rule of the Major Generals.
He was a diligent puritan, banning the celebration of Christmas. Significant quantities of cotton began to be used after about 1600, firstly in linen/cotton fustians, but by around 1750 pure cotton fabrics were being produced and cotton had overtaken wool in importance; the Irwell and Mersey were made navigable by 1736, opening a route from Manchester to the sea docks on the Mersey. The Bridgewater Canal, Britain's first wholly artificial waterway, was opened in 1761, bringing coal from mines at Worsley to central Manchester; the canal was extended to the Mersey at Runcorn by 1776. The combination of competition and improved efficiency halved th
Kirklees is a local government district of West Yorkshire, governed by Kirklees Council with the status of a metropolitan borough. The largest town and administrative centre of Kirklees is Huddersfield, the district includes Batley, Cleckheaton, Denby Dale, Heckmondwike, Kirkburton, Meltham and Slaithwaite. Kirklees had a population of 422,500 in 2011 and is therefore the most populous borough in England, not a city; the borough was formed on 1 April 1974 by the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 as part of a reform of local government in England. Eleven former local government districts were merged: the county boroughs of Huddersfield and Dewsbury, the municipal boroughs of Batley and Spenborough and the urban districts of Colne Valley, Denby Dale, Holme Valley, Kirkburton and Mirfield; the name Kirklees was chosen by the merging councils from more than fifty suggestions, including Upper Agbrigg and Wooldale. It was named after Kirklees Priory, legendary burial place of Robin Hood, situated midway between Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
The priory was located within the present-day Kirklees Park estate, most of which lies in the neighbouring borough of Calderdale. The name Kirklees is made up of Lees meaning Meadows. Under the original draft of the Act, the district would have included Ossett, part of the Dewsbury Parliamentary constituency at that time, it was decided that Ossett was too remote to be governed from Huddersfield and the town was included within the Wakefield district instead. The principal settlements of Kirklees are mill towns in the Colne Valley, Holme Valley, Calder Valley and Spen Valley; those areas of the district with a more urban character bound Calderdale to the west, Bradford to the northwest, Leeds to the northeast and Wakefield to the east. The district includes several rural villages, with the largest rural area extending from the south of Huddersfield; the Pennine countryside to the southwest of Meltham and Holme lies within the Peak District National Park. This moorland area bounds Saddleworth, a traditional part of Yorkshire but now locally governed from Oldham, Greater Manchester.
There is a short border with the High Peak district of Derbyshire running across the summit of Black Hill, the main border to the south of Kirklees is with Barnsley. The inclusion of two county boroughs resulted in a district without an obvious centre. Over the years there have been suggestions of splitting the district into two, administered from Huddersfield and Dewsbury. Graham Riddick, as MP for Colne Valley, campaigned for a split in the early 1990s. A similar ambition was mentioned by Elizabeth Peacock, MP for Batley and Spen in 1991; the boundaries of metropolitan boroughs were outside the remit of the Banham Commission appointed to review local government structures in 1992 or its successors, only minor boundary changes were made with neighbouring districts in 1994. The district includes parts of three postcode areas. Huddersfield and the rural areas to the south have HD postcodes, Birkenshaw and Gomersal have BD postcodes, the rest of the Heavy Woollen area has WF postcodes; the district is split between several telephone dialling codes, with most residents in the 01484, 01274 and 01924 codes.
A small number of residents in Birchencliffe and Birkenshaw villages fall within the 01422 and 0113 codes respectively. The stated religion of the population of Kirklees, as recorded at the 2001 census of population was as follows: Christian 261,128 No religion 54,445 Muslim 39,312 Religion not stated 28,394 Sikh 2,726 Hindu 1,222 Other Religions 772 Buddhist 397 Jewish 171 Public transport information is provided by Metro, as is the case across West Yorkshire. Kirklees lies along the core Huddersfield Line of the TransPennine Express network, with services calling at Huddersfield and Dewsbury. Direct Grand Central services to London King's Cross call at Mirfield. Other railway stations in the district on these routes and on the Penistone Line have local Northern services; some towns in Kirklees have not been served by rail transport since the Beeching cuts. Most bus services in the Huddersfield area are operated by Yorkshire Tiger and First, most bus services in the Heavy Woollen area are operated by Arriva.
The urban areas of Kirklees are served by the M1 motorways. Parts of the local road network are considered to require improvement, such as the main route from Huddersfield to the southbound M1 which narrows as it passes through Flockton. Kirklees Council has developed a number of traffic-free cycle paths called Greenways in partnership with Sustrans. Tourism in Kirklees is based around the area's countryside and industrial heritage: Bagshaw Museum Castle Hill Colne Valley Museum Holmfirth, setting of long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine Kirklees Light Railway Kirklees Way, 72 miles circular walking route Marsden Moor Estate Oakwell Hall Standedge Tunnels and Visitor Centre Tolson MuseumKirklees Council closed Dewsbury Museum and Red House Museum at the end of 2016, claiming it could not afford to continue running them following cuts to its budget. Tourist information in Kirklees can be obtained from major libraries. Huddersfield Town play football in the Premier League as of the 2017-18 season.
They were the first English club to win three successive league titles. The birthplace of rugby league was at the George Huddersfield.
1996 United Kingdom local elections
Local elections were held in the United Kingdom in 1996. They were the last local elections until 2010 to show a decline in the number of Conservative councillors and an increase in the number of Labour councillors; the main opposition Labour Party gained 468 seats, bringing their number of councillors to 10,929. Their share of the vote was projected to be 43%, 4% down on the 1995 local elections; the governing Conservative Party lost 607 seats and were left with 4,276 councillors - still in third place behind the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives' projected share of the vote was 29%, a 4% increase since the previous local elections in 1995; the Liberal Democrats gained 136 seats and had 5,078 councillors after the elections. Source: Parliamentary Research Briefing on 1996 Local Election All 36 metropolitan borough councils had one third of their seats up for election; these were the first elections to 13 more unitary authorities established by the Local Government Commission for England. They acted as "shadow authorities" until 1 April 1997.
‡ New ward boundaries from predecessor authorities In 1 unitary authority one third of the council was up for election. In 100 districts one third of the council was up for election; these were the last elections to the district councils of Blackburn, Peterborough, Slough, Southend-on-Sea and Wokingham before they became unitary authorities by the Local Government Commission for England. These were the last elections to the district councils of Gillingham, Hereford and South Herefordshire before they were abolished and replaced by unitary authorities by the Local Government Commission for England; the local elections of 2 May 1996. House of Commons Library Research Paper 96/59. Vote 1999 BBC News Vote 2000 BBC News
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 313 Members of Parliament, has 249 members of the House of Lords, 18 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 12 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 8,916 local councillors; the Conservative Party was founded in 1834 from the Tory Party—the Conservatives' colloquial name is "Tories"—and was one of two dominant political parties in the nineteenth century, along with the Liberal Party. Under Benjamin Disraeli it played a preeminent role in politics at the height of the British Empire. In 1912, the Liberal Unionist Party merged with the party to form the Conservative and Unionist Party. In the 1920s, the Labour Party surpassed the Liberals as the Conservatives' main rivals. Conservative Prime Ministers — notably Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher — led governments for 57 years of the twentieth century.
Positioned on the centre-right of British politics, the Conservative Party is ideologically conservative. Different factions have dominated the party at different times, including One Nation Conservatives and liberal conservatives, while its views and policies have changed throughout its history; the party has adopted liberal economic policies—favouring free market economics, limiting state regulation, pursuing privatisation—although in the past has supported protectionism. The party is British unionist, opposing both Irish reunification and Welsh and Scottish independence, supported the maintenance of the British Empire; the party includes those with differing views on the European Union, with Eurosceptic and pro-European wings. In foreign policy, it is for a strong national defence; the Conservatives are a member of the International Democrat Union and the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe and sit with the European Conservatives and Reformists parliamentary group. The Scottish, Northern Irish and Gibraltan branches of the party are semi-autonomous.
Its support base consists of middle-class voters in rural areas of England, its domination of British politics throughout the twentieth century has led to it being referred to as one of the most successful political parties in the Western world. The Conservative Party was founded in the 1830s. However, some writers trace its origins to the reign of Charles II in the 1670s Exclusion Crisis. Other historians point to a faction, rooted in the 18th century Whig Party, that coalesced around William Pitt the Younger in the 1780s, they were known as "Independent Whigs", "Friends of Mr Pitt", or "Pittites" and never used terms such as "Tory" or "Conservative". Pitt died in 1806. From about 1812 on the name "Tory" was used for a new party that, according to historian Robert Blake, "are the ancestors of Conservatism". Blake adds that Pitt's successors after 1812 "were not in any sense standard-bearer's of true Toryism"; the term "Conservative" was suggested as a title for the party by a magazine article by J. Wilson Croker in the Quarterly Review in 1830.
The name caught on and was adopted under the aegis of Sir Robert Peel around 1834. Peel is acknowledged as the founder of the Conservative Party, which he created with the announcement of the Tamworth Manifesto; the term "Conservative Party" rather than Tory was the dominant usage by 1845. The widening of the electoral franchise in the nineteenth century forced the Conservative Party to popularise its approach under Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby and Benjamin Disraeli, who carried through their own expansion of the franchise with the Reform Act of 1867. In 1886, the party formed an alliance with Spencer Compton Cavendish, Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain's new Liberal Unionist Party and, under the statesmen Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Lord Salisbury and Arthur Balfour, held power for all but three of the following twenty years before suffering a heavy defeat in 1906 when it split over the issue of free trade. Young Winston Churchill denounced Chamberlain's attack on free trade, helped organize the opposition inside the Unionist/Conservative Party.
Balfour, as party leader, followed Chamberlain's policy introduced protectionist legislation. The high tariff element called itself "Tariff Reformers" and in a major speech in Manchester on May 13, 1904, Churchill warned their takeover of the Unionist/Conservative party would permanently brand it as: A party of great vested interests, banded together in a formidable confederation. Two weeks Churchill crossed the floor and formally joined the Liberal Party. )He rejoined the Conservatives in 1925.) In December, Balfour lost control of his party, as the defections multiplied. He was replaced by Liberal Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman who called an election in January 1906, which produced a massive Liberal victory with a gain of 214 seats. Liberal Prime Minister H. H. Asquith enacted a great deal of reform legislation, but the Unionists worked hard at grassroots organizing. Two general elections were held in one in January and one in December; the two main parties were now dead equal in seats.
The Unionists had more popular votes but the Liberals kept control with a coalition with the Irish Parliamentary Party. In 1912, the Liberal Unionis
Liverpool is a city in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500 within the Liverpool City Council local authority in 2017. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region. Liverpool is on the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary, lay within the ancient hundred of West Derby in the south west of the county of Lancashire, it became a borough in 1207 and a city in 1880. In 1889, it became a county borough independent of Lancashire, its growth as a major port was paralleled by the expansion of the city throughout the Industrial Revolution. Along with handling general cargo, raw materials such as coal and cotton, the city merchants were involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In the 19th century, it was a major port of departure for Irish and English emigrants to North America.
Liverpool was home to both the Cunard and White Star Line, was the port of registry of the ocean liner RMS Titanic, the RMS Lusitania, RMS Queen Mary and RMS Olympic. The popularity of the Beatles and other music groups from the Merseybeat era contributes to Liverpool's status as a tourist destination. Liverpool is the home of two Premier League football clubs and Everton, matches between the two being known as the Merseyside derby; the Grand National horse race takes place annually at Aintree Racecourse on the outskirts of the city. The city celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007. In 2008, it was nominated as the annual European Capital of Culture together with Norway. Several areas of the city centre were granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2004; the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City includes the Pier Head, Albert Dock, William Brown Street. Liverpool's status as a port city has attracted a diverse population, drawn from a wide range of peoples and religions from Ireland and Wales.
The city is home to the oldest Black African community in the country and the oldest Chinese community in Europe. Natives and residents of the city of Liverpool are referred to as Liverpudlians, colloquially as "Scousers", a reference to "scouse", a form of stew; the word "Scouse" has become synonymous with the Liverpool accent and dialect. The name comes from the Old English lifer, meaning thick or muddy water, pōl, meaning a pool or creek, is first recorded around 1190 as Liuerpul. According to the Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, "The original reference was to a pool or tidal creek now filled up into which two streams drained"; the adjective Liverpudlian is first recorded in 1833. Other origins of the name have been suggested, including "elverpool", a reference to the large number of eels in the Mersey; the name appeared in 1190 as "Liuerpul", the place appearing as Leyrpole, in a legal record of 1418, may refer to Liverpool. Another such suggestion is derivation from Welsh llyvr pwl meaning "expanse or confluence at the pool".
King John's letters patent of 1207 announced the foundation of the borough of Liverpool. By the middle of the 16th century, the population was still around 500; the original street plan of Liverpool is said to have been designed by King John near the same time it was granted a royal charter, making it a borough. The original seven streets were laid out in an H shape: Bank Street, Castle Street, Chapel Street, Dale Street, Juggler Street, Moor Street and Whiteacre Street. In the 17th century there was slow progress in population growth. Battles for control of the town were waged during the English Civil War, including an eighteen-day siege in 1644. In 1699 Liverpool was made a parish by Act of Parliament, that same year its first slave ship, Liverpool Merchant, set sail for Africa. Since Roman times, the nearby city of Chester on the River Dee had been the region's principal port on the Irish Sea. However, as the Dee began to silt up, maritime trade from Chester became difficult and shifted towards Liverpool on the neighbouring River Mersey.
As trade from the West Indies, including sugar, surpassed that of Ireland and Europe, as the River Dee continued to silt up, Liverpool began to grow with increasing rapidity. The first commercial wet dock was built in Liverpool in 1715. Substantial profits from the slave trade and tobacco helped the town to prosper and grow, although several prominent local men, including William Rathbone, William Roscoe and Edward Rushton, were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. By the start of the 19th century, a large volume of trade was passing through Liverpool, the construction of major buildings reflected this wealth. In 1830, Liverpool and Manchester became the first cities to have an intercity rail link, through the Liverpool and Manchester Railway; the population continued to rise especially during the 1840s when Irish migrants began arriving by the hundreds of thousands as a result of the Great Famine. In her poem "Liverpool", which celebrates the city's worldwide commerce, Letitia Elizabeth Landon refers to the Macgregor Laird expedition to the Niger River, at that time in progress.
Great Britain was a major market for cotton imported from the Deep South of the United States, which fed the textile industry in the country. Given the crucial place of both cotton and slavery in the city's economy, during the American Civil War Liverpool was, in the words of historian Sven Beckert, "the most pro-Confederate place in the world outside the Confederacy itself." For periods during the 19th century, the wealth of Liverpool
Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, known as Paddy Ashdown, was a British politician and diplomat who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 to 1999. He gained international recognition for his role in Bosnia–Herzegovina as its High Representative from 2002 to 2006, following his vigorous lobbying for military action against Yugoslavia in the 1990s. After serving as a Royal Marine and Special Boat Service officer and as an intelligence officer in the UK security services, Ashdown was elected Member of Parliament for Yeovil in 1983 before retiring in 2001. Ashdown received national recognition for his services by appointment as Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 2006 New Year Honours and Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the 2015 New Year Honours. A polyglot, Ashdown had an interpretership qualification in Mandarin and was fluent in several other languages. Ashdown was the eldest of seven children: he had four brothers and two sisters.
He was born in New Delhi, British India, on 27 February 1941 to a family of soldiers and colonial administrators who spent their lives in India. His father was a lapsed Catholic, his mother a Protestant, his mother was a nurse in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. Ashdown's father, John William Richard Durham Ashdown, was a British Indian Army officer serving in the 14th Punjab Regiment and the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, in 1944 attained the rank of temporary lieutenant colonel. Ashdown was brought up in Northern Ireland, where his father bought a farm in 1945 near Comber, Donaghadee, he was educated first at a local primary school as a weekly boarder at Garth House Preparatory School in Bangor and from age 11 at Bedford School in England, where his accent earned him the nickname "Paddy". After his father's business collapsed, Ashdown passed the naval scholarship examination to pay for his school fees, but left before taking A-levels and joined the Royal Marines in 1959, he retired with the rank of captain.
He served in Borneo during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation and the Persian Gulf, before training as a Swimmer Canoeist in 1965, after which he joined the elite Special Boat Section and commanded a Section in the Far East. He went to Hong Kong in 1967 to undertake a full-time interpreter's course in Chinese, returned to the UK in 1970 when he was given command of a Royal Marine company in Belfast. Ashdown left the Royal Marines to join the Secret Intelligence Service; as diplomatic cover, he worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as first secretary to the United Kingdom mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. At the UN, Ashdown was responsible for relations with several UN organisations, involved in the negotiation of several international treaties, some aspects of the Helsinki Accords in 1975. While in the Marines, Ashdown had been a supporter of the Labour Party but switched support to the Liberal Party in 1975, he had a comfortable life in Switzerland, where he lived with his wife Jane and their two children Simon and Katherine in a large house on the shores of Lake Geneva, enjoying plenty of time for sailing and climbing.
Ashdown decided to enter politics after the UK had two general elections in one year and the Three-Day Week. He said that "most of my friends thought it was utterly bonkers" to leave the diplomatic service, but that he had "a sense of purpose". In 1976 Ashdown was selected as the Liberal Party's prospective parliamentary candidate in his wife's home constituency of Yeovil in Somerset, took a job with Normalair Garrett part of the Yeovil-based Westland Group. Yeovil's Liberal candidate had been placed second in the February 1974 and third in the October 1974 general elections, he subsequently worked for Tescan, was unemployed for a time after that firm's closure in 1981, before becoming a youth worker with Dorset County Council's Youth Service, working on initiatives to help the young unemployed. That position being an unpaid "volunteer" one, Ashdown himself being classified at the time as "long term unemployed", having applied unsuccessfully for 150 jobs. In the 1979 general election which returned the Conservatives to power, Ashdown regained second place, establishing a clear lead of 9% over the Labour candidate.
The Conservative majority of 11,382 was still large enough to be regarded as a safe seat when the sitting MP John Peyton stood down at the 1983 general election to be made a life peer. Ashdown had gained momentum after his years of local campaigning; the Labour vote fell to only 5.5% and Ashdown won the seat with a majority of over 3,000, a swing from the Conservatives of 11.9% against a national swing of 4% to the Conservatives. Ashdown had long been on his party's social democratic wing, supporting the 1977 Lib–Lab pact, the SDP–Liberal Alliance. In the early 1980s he was a prominent campaigner against the deployment in Europe of American nuclear-armed cruise missiles, describing them at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rally in Hyde Park in 1983 as "the front end of the whole anti-nuclear struggle, it is the weapon we HAVE to stop."Shortly after entering the House of Commons, he was appointed SDP–Liberal Alliance spokesman on Trade and Industry and on Education. He opposed the privatisation of the Royal Ordnance Factories in 1984, in 1986 he criticised the Thatcher Government for allowing the United States to bomb Libya from UK bases, in 1987 he campaigned against the loss of trade union