Remembering Charles Kennedy
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 2nd June, 2015
Few politicians inspire as much warmth as Charles Kennedy generated during his time as leader of the Liberal Democrats. But then few politicians are as engaging, witty and profoundly human — in their strengths and their weaknesses — as Charles was. He was a joy to work with, even if you couldn’t always rely on him turning up on time, and although he came to the Alliance from the SDP he was Liberal to his core. He inspired huge loyalty among people he worked with — the main reason people tried to cover up his drinking problem — and he also connected with the general public to a remarkable degree. Political opponents sometimes derided him as Chatshow Charlie, but in reality they usually fell under his spell as well, as witnessed by the tributes that have been pouring in all morning from across the political spectrum. Charles Kennedy was also a brave politician, as shown when he stood his ground in opposition to the Iraq War, despite odious vilification from both Labour and Conservative MPs in the House of Commons. The abuse and the heckling deeply upset him, as he was in many ways a sensitive man, but he never wavered. I have never felt so proud of a party leader as when he joined a million of us on the London march against the War and spoke so passionately about it. His inevitable fall from the leadership and the breakdown of his marriage were twin tragedies that wounded him deeply; losing his parliamentary seat in last month’s SNP tsunami was a final cruel blow. It was obvious from his last appearance on Question Time that he was a diminished man, yet he was someone we continued to love. I considered it a privilege to work with him when I was on the party’s Federal Policy Committee and later through our involvement with the European Movement, of which he was President. When I received an SMS early this morning telling me Charles had been found dead it was if I had been punched in the gut. We have lost a great Liberal Democrat, a great Scotsman, a British politician of unique talents, a true European and above all a wonderful human being.