Shock death of former Liberal Democrat Leader, Charles Kennedy

The political world is reeling from the sudden death this morning, 1st June 2015, of the 55 year old Charles Kennedy. MP for Ross, Cromarty and Skye [Ross, Skye and Lochaber from 2005] following his election as its Social Democrat MP at the age of 23.  He was then the youngest sitting member in the House of Commons.

Mr Kennedy died in his home in Fort William last night.

Sharply intelligent, amusing, congenial and open-hearted, there are few who did not feel warmly about Charles Kennedy, politically and personally.

He was a courageous and principled politician who led the country’s opposition to the illegal war against Iraq into which Tony Blair and the Labour party administration of the day led the country. Many will remember his inspirational address to the huge anti-war rally in London at that time.

In 1994, upon the controversial merger of the Liberal party and the young Social Democratic Party into the Liberal Democratic Party, Kennedy became its first President.

Kennedy became Leader of the then Liberal Democrats in 1999 when Paddy Ashdown resigned, leading the party through two General Elections to achieve its greatest ever number of seats – 62.

On 7th January 2006, with serious internal concerns about his ability to continue to lead the party while dealing with alcoholism, he resigned the leadership, having first announced his intention to fight and to contest a leadership election. He was succeeded by Sir Menzies Campbell.

During this chaotic period, Charles Kennedy was unforgivably betrayed by his former press secretary, the journalist, Daisy McAndrew. She was the source for a media story on the detail of the impact of his drinking on his personal and domestic life – in intimate and forensic detail.

It is to be hoped that this excursion proves a watershed in reminding the press that there are times when humanity alone demands some sense of responsibility in reporting. Drink makes embarrassing and troublesome pests of everyone it overcomes. Everyone has a right to what dignity they can retain in public.

Kennedy’s battle with drink has been the defining challenge of the latter part of his life. It saw an end to his 2002 marriage to Sarah Gurling in August 2010. He is survived by their young son.

His recent experiences had offered him profound and complex challenges.

His beloved father, a mainstay of his life, died in the last days of the 2015 General Election in which Charles Kennedy also lost his parliamentary seat. For 32 years this had been the shaping purpose and in a way the governor of his life.

For very many of us, Charles Kennedy was a memorable and likeable part of the structure of British politics as we have known it.

Political tributes – in order of receipt

 Dave Thompson SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.

Mr Thompson says: ‘Charles Kennedy was a wonderful man whom I appreciated knowing and debating with. My – and my wife Veronica’s, prayers go out for him and to his family at this sad time.

‘Charles is a great loss to the Highlands. Though we disagreed on some points he always offered wise words and I believe he displayed great integrity and great courage.’

Ian Blackford, newly elected SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber

Mr Blackford says: I am shocked and saddened at the news of Charles Kennedy’s death. He was a bright, articulate and gregarious man and it is so sad that he has been taken at such a young age. My thoughts are with his family and all who knew and loved him.

‘Charles was a very kind, decent and honest man. I have known him for a long time, and I will remember him as someone that could rise above party politics.

‘I recall election night in 1999 – not a good night for the SNP, but Charles showed tremendous kindness and support that evening. I will never forget that.

‘On the doorstep in the constituency there was undoubtedly a lot of warmth expressed toward him – and he had helped a lot of people during his time as an MP. His humanity and kind nature endeared him to so many.

‘Charlie Kennedy set a fine example of how a member of parliament should serve their constituents and make their political arguments and that is something all of us in public life should all learn from and aspire to.’

[Editor: It is worth saying that Mr Blackford also deserves sympathy in what may be an invitation to blame himself. He ought not to hold himself responsible in any way because he took the seat Charles Kennedy had held for so long. Politics brings recurring contests which are open to all comers. No one has a ‘right’ to hold any seat and, in life,  nothing lasts. We are each responsible for ourselves.]

Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands Conservative MSP

JamieMcGrigor says: ‘I am deeply saddened by this tragic news which will come as a terrible shock to so many people.

‘One cannot think of politics in the Highlands without thinking of Charles Kennedy who through his extraordinary talents and affability with his constituents- for whom he fought many successful battles- reached the highest pinnacle that his party had achieved for many generations.

‘The Highlands, and particularly Lochaber, have lost a great champion.

‘His loss will be deeply mourned by a great many and my thoughts are with his family and friends.”

 Ruth Davidson MSP, Scottish Conservative Leader

Ruth Davidon says’: I am deeply saddened by the death of Charles Kennedy.

‘He was a politician who transcended party politics and his gentle warmth always conveyed an intelligent humanity when he spoke.

‘My thoughts and prayers go to his family.’


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Related Articles & Comments

  • A moving tribute to a sincere and honest politician.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 33 Thumb down 0

    dp June 2, 2015 12:29 pm Reply
  • Commented on it elsewhere so will try and avoid repeating myself. I think the best way of putting it is to keep it simple and say that we have lost one of the good guys.

    A politician who, regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with him, it was easy to like him and believe he was genuine, sincere and, most significantly human.

    May we see more like him in future.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 32 Thumb down 0

    Integrity? June 2, 2015 1:43 pm Reply
    • Hear hear.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

      Jamie Black June 2, 2015 1:49 pm Reply
    • Hear hear. So tragic.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

      Maurice Brodie June 3, 2015 2:51 pm Reply
  • Lovely tribute to a good man.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

    phill June 2, 2015 5:12 pm Reply
  • Each of us mere mortals have one or two demons of one sort or another and to be betrayed by a presumed confidante be it press secretary, friend or relation must be crippling to one’s self esteem. At least the ‘nasties’ have not come out to vent their bile, as yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

    Aral June 2, 2015 5:21 pm Reply
  • The editor’s note after Ian Blackford’s tribute is a decent and spot on observation. Already today I have encountered some looking to apportion blame for Charles Kennedy’s passing misguided and insensitively enough to point the finger at SNP’s doorstep.
    Absolutely gutted to wake up to this news this morning. Long before Charles Kennedy’s campaigning against Scotland’s independence he was always a firm favourite and even during our referendum his words more than any of his colleagues in Better Together were always respectful and insightful and we’ll worth absorbing.
    Politics in the UK is a poorer place without him.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

    JnrTick June 2, 2015 5:48 pm Reply
  • Alex Salmond’s sour and inaccurate remarks on the death of the outstanding Charles Kennedy are a disgrace .

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 10

    Regularflyer June 2, 2015 7:43 pm Reply
    • Try reading the whole of Alex Salmond’s statement and not just the bits the press are taking out of context.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 8

      Andy June 2, 2015 10:41 pm Reply
    Are you one of the numpties writing identified by WOS?
    How low in the gutter can you guys get?
    He was a good guy of a different political persuasion but genuine. How dare such low life attribute blame.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6

    No Cheese Here June 2, 2015 9:44 pm Reply
    • Agree, every one of those tweets is the creation of a poisonous mind.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

      Integrity? June 2, 2015 10:05 pm Reply
    • NCH, I will be honest and say that you and some of your more outspoken SNP supporters can be very unpleasant on here but this is one I totally agree with you about – I’m not on Farcebook or Twitter – but those comments are extremely low. You should have left off the last sentence for impact, but understand you want to defend the party you support.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

      Jade June 2, 2015 11:22 pm Reply
  • My view os that repeating is only perpetuating and publicising. Best such cretins are totally ignored. Completely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

    Jamie Black June 2, 2015 11:33 pm Reply
  • I too was gutted to hear the news this morning. Charles Kennedy was a very good politician and something so few politicians are nowadays – able to engage and understand the needs and wants of ordinary people. He wasn’t my constituency MP but I had reason to contact him in connection with a number of issues that were going to impact Mull as well as his constituency residents; he always came back for more details and gave progress reports. I didn’t necessarily agree with his political stance but he was a person who represented the people who lived in his constituency, not some bod foisted upon them who couldn’t give a toss! He was genuine, he worked for people and we need more MPs and MSPs like Charles Kennedy.
    May he rest in peace and my heart goes out to his family and friends.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

    Jade June 2, 2015 11:34 pm Reply
  • We will not see his like again.

    It is such a pity – and a disgrace – that people like him are not fully appreciated until after their death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

    ClootieCumpling June 3, 2015 9:00 pm Reply
  • At the time of Charles being hounded out of the leadership of the party, I wrote on three occasions to Jenny Tonge, who was then my MP asking what part she had played in the affair.

    She didn’t have the courtesy to reply. Then of course she was elevated to Baroness.

    In January 2004 Tonge was asked to step down as children’s spokeswoman by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy after saying of Palestinian suicide bombers: “If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself.” Tonge refused to apologise: “I was just trying to say how, having seen the violence and the humiliation and the provocation that the Palestinian people live under every day and have done since their land was occupied by Israel, I could understand…”

    Just as well for her that she didn’t try Richmond again, as Zac became my MP. She stood no chance against him and he has proved how useless she was in comparisson.

    Regret I don’t live in that constituency any more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    dp June 3, 2015 9:26 pm Reply
  • “The best of the political class and the best of men.” (Diane Abbott M.P.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    Lowry June 4, 2015 7:26 am Reply
  • Interesting article in the Mail today.

    “‘Hounded’ by SNP hate mob: How, in the weeks before his lonely death, Charles Kennedy endured a vile campaign of bullying and abuse by separatist fanatics that deeply wounded an already vulnerable man”

    Unfortunately it is no surprise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

    Lundavra June 6, 2015 8:49 am Reply
    • Rampant nationalism has brought out the worst in some people right down history, and Scotland doesn’t seem to have escaped this scourge – but the picture is skewed on this blog by some people assuming multiple identities and flooding it with aggressive jingoistic garbage, particularly in the run up to the recent Westminster election but unfortunately still continuing to some extent.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

      Robert Wakeham June 6, 2015 10:38 am Reply

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