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A Fortunate Life: Autobiography of Paddy Ashdown

March 22, 2009 9:00 AM

Book cover of Lord Paddy Ashdown's autobiography: A Fortunate LifeMy Fortunate Life: the Autobiography of Paddy Ashdown is published on 23 April. To get your special Members' only discount of 15% off retail price and free post and packing, please call 01903 828503 quoting ref AUR 237.

No other British political leader of the post-war generation could have written a book like this for the simple reason that no other modern politician has led a life as varied, adventurous and dramatic as its author. He has been, in turn, an officer in the Royal Marine Commandos, a member of the Special Boat Service, a diplomat, an MP and leader of his party and an international peacemaker in war-torn Bosnia.

He can, and does, write with authority about topics as diverse as evading water bailiffs while fishing illicitly at night (a legacy of his childhood in Northern Ireland); tracking down and destroying infiltrating Indonesian forces in the jungles of Sarawak; landing a raiding party from a submerged submarine; the difficulties of learning Chinese (he holds the equivalent of a first-class degree in Chinese, just one of his six languages); winning an apparently 'hopeless' parliamentary seat; negotiating with Tony Blair; and bringing stability to a country wracked by civil war.

He is deadly serious when writing about the things that matter to him - his family, his country, his party, the Bosnian people whose cause he adopted when it was deeply unpopular to do so - but he also has a refreshing gift for seeing the funny side of most situations and illustrates it with self-deprecating wit and a wealth of anecdote. Although this book covers his years in politics - the chapter on 'The Winning of Yeovil', an eight-year campaign to overturn an impregnable Conservative majority with the help of a second-hand printing press called Clarissa and a supply of potent home-made wine is particularly memorable - it is hard to imagine anything less like a traditional political memoir. This is the self-portrait of a man who has lived life to the full and whose autobiography would be fascinating, even if he had never set foot in Palace of Westminster - a place whose intrigues and self-absorption, he acknowledges, he often found tedious.

Paddy Ashdown was the founding leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 to 1998. From 2002 to 2006 he was the United Nations High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His previous books include two volumes of The Ashdown Diaries, which covered his years as party leader, and Swords and Ploughshares: Building Peace in the 21st Century. He currently sits in the House of Lords.

To get your special Members' only discount of 15% off retail price and free post and packing, please call 01903 828503 quoting ref AUR 237.