Five facts about Paddy Ashdown

LONDON - Former Special Boat Service commando and Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has turned down an offer to take a cabinet position in Gordon Brown’s first cabinet.

-- Born in New Delhi on 27 February 1941, the eldest of seven children. When he was four, his family moved to Northern Ireland.

-- Between 1959 and 1972 he served as a Royal Marines Officer and saw active service as a Commando Officer in Borneo and the Persian Gulf. After Special Forces training in England in 1965, he commanded a Special Boat Section in the Far East. He went to Hong Kong in 1967 to undertake a full-time course in Chinese, returning to England in 1970. He was then given command of a Commando Company in Belfast.

-- Ashdown entered parliament as member for Yeovil in 1983 and was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats in July 1988. He was leader for 11 years and under him, the party managed its best election result since 1929. His only serious public relations wobble was in 1992 when he disclosed he had had a five-month affair with his secretary some years previously. His wife Jane stood by him.

-- After leaving parliament, he became High Commissioner for Bosnia Herzegovina in 2002, staying in the post for 3-1/2 years.

-- Knighted in 2000 and made a peer in 2001.