Charles Kennedy: An Obituary.

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Charles Kennedy: An Obituary.

Charles Kennedy has died. He was 55 years old. Kennedy, going by tributes which have been made today, will be remembered as an approachable ‘down to earth’ politician.

Kennedy entered politics as an elected member for the SDP aged just 23 in the 1983 general election. Previous to this point he studied at Glasgow University (which he’d later become twice Rector of) and Indiana University. At Glasgow, he won the Observer Mace in a debating competition in his final year of studying.

He was first elected in 1983.

He was first elected in 1983.

Even in those early years, Kennedy displayed a nose for politics as he was one of the first to support the merger between the SDP and the Liberal party to form the Liberal Democrats. Within the Lib Dems, he served numerous frontbench positions dealing with Scotland, Health, Rural affairs and Europe. Between 1990 and 1994, he was president of the party.

He was critical of Paddy Ashdown for being too close to Tony Blair’s New Labour, and in 1999, he became leader himself after Ashdown stepped down. It was during this time he earned the nickname of ‘Chatshow Charlie’ due to his appearances on Have I Got News for You (which he’d later host a few episodes) by his political opponents.

He once reviewed the Referendum wearing an elf jumper, in one of his many TV appearances.

He once reviewed the Referendum wearing an elf jumper, in one of his many TV appearances.

In 2003 Kennedy made a stand against the proposed Iraq War. His speech in the Commons is remember by commentators as an example of Kennedy putting his beliefs before popularity or political advancement. Following this, he attended a Stop the War rally in Hyde Park. With his opposition against the Iraq War, under his leadership the Lib Dems adopted the position of ‘being left of Labour’ and in 2005, the party gained 62 MPs –up from 10 the previous election.

With his health faltering he resigned from party leadership in 2006 to be replaced by Sir Ming Campbell, who himself was to be replaced by Nick Clegg. Yet despite his health; public news about his struggles with alcohol and loss of leadership, he remained a voice in political affairs and an MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. Which happened to be his hometown.

In fact, from 1983 to 2015, Ross, Skye and Lochaber continued to be Kennedy’s consistency.

Kennedy was known for having firm views, but would often be gentle with it, especially in debates. When discussing the Lib Dems, he remarked: “The Liberal Democrats are nobody’s poodles. But we are not rottweilers either. We don’t savage on command. That is the old politics.”

'Charles was the best of all of us' -Paddy Ashdown with Kennedy.

‘Charles was the best of all of us’ -Paddy Ashdown with Kennedy.

A number of political figures have given tributes to Kennedy today:

Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown: “Charles Kennedy. In a political age not overburdened with gaiety and good sense, he brought us wit, charm, judgment, principle and decency.”

Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ming Campbell: “He was a fine parliamentarian but a man for whom principle was everything. He was a Highland gentleman, but never a nationalist.”

Former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Malcolm Bruce: “Known Charles all my political life. A family friend and colleague. Charles could look at politics from the outside, and disengage –a strength. He could talk in a way which could make him approachable. A blend of serious analysis with warmth, wit and humour.”

Former Lib Dem Minister, Vince Cable: “A wonderfully talented man. Our most successful leader. Led us to our best ever results and he led the country with his opposition to the Iraq war, which was a courageous stemmed from very shrewd political judgement.”

Prime Minister, David Cameron: “A man of immense ability. Not that often in politics that someone comes along with the brains, talent wits and bags of humanity and he had all of those. He achieved so much so young, and has been taken away far too young.”

In his report to the House, speaker John Bercow remarked that Charles Kennedy was a “principled, progressive and passionate politician and more importantly, a very proud Parliamentarian.”

More tributes are expected tomorrow, when there is a dedicated session of tributes in the Commons.

In 2010 he said: “I will go out of this world feet first with my Lib Dem membership card in my pocket.”


Charles Kennedy is survived by his son and family members. 1959-2015

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