Tuesday 2 June 2015


I was genuinely shocked and saddened this morning when I read on Twitter that Charles Kennedy had died. Mr Kennedy had been in politics since ever I can remember. He was 23 when he was elected and 55 when he died. I simply can't remember politics without him.

I was never a Liberal, although I liked a lot of what they stood for in the days before Clegg, and I certainly voted Liberal on several occasions when Charlie was leader. 

He seemed to stand for decency in a world (politics) where there is precious little of that about.

My particular memory of Kennedy was that he showed himself to be a strong and decisive leader when Blair (and whoever was the Tory leader that week) were salivating over the prospect of going to war in Iraq at the behest of, and with the hope of attracting the approval of, DubYa. It's maybe easy to say that it wasn;t that hard to disagree with the tissue of lies that Blair came up with, but the pressure from Blair and his entourage for a united front from the UK political parties must have been very strong.

Kennedy did the honest and decent thing. Invited to see the evidence, as a Privy Counsellor, ie not for political purposes, he refused to agree to Blair's cry for war, having found the pretexts to be flimsy in the extreme.

His refusal to agree to this, despite having seen the "evidence" that the Secret Services had amassed, sewed the seeds of doubt in the minds of other people who had not been in the privileged position to view the "evidence". (Alex Salmond also refused to vote for the war, but as he was not a PC he hadn't seen the privileged information, thus his opinions didn't carry the same weight as Kennedy's.)

What was disappointing about Kennedy, I thought, was that at a time when it seemed that the Tories and Blair had merged into one party, and the Liberals with 60+ members could have provided some opposition, they didn't.

It might have been due to his illness (for that's what alcoholism is) about which none of us knew. 

After he resignation the Liberals were never the same again. Neither Campbell nor Clegg were a patch on Charlie. Both lacked charisma and his air of honesty and decency. Despite Cleggmania in the run up to the 2010 election, he couldn't manage the numbers Kennedy had overseen as leader.

Tributes have come from across the political spectrum today for a man who seems to have been genuinely popular with all manner of politicians.

In Scotland Willie Rennie paid a tribute to his friend and colleague, saying he was "devastated". They had been together only a short time ago to discuss his political future. Presumably this would have involved him in working for the YES campaign to keep the UK in Europe, a subject close to his heart and an area in which he would have excelled because of his passion for Europe..

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond paid him glowing tributes too, even if Alex Massie of the Spectator, managed to distort what Salmond said for his own miserable political ends.

Stuart Campbell has already covered the sickening Twitter abuse of the SNP, accused by some of being responsible for Kennedy's death, by taking the seat he was contesting, so there is no point in my mentioning, except to say I never cease to be amazed at how low some people will sink.

From the First Minister (at the European Policy Centre, Brussels)

I want to begin today with a few words about Charles Kennedy, former Scottish MP and Liberal Democrat leader.

Charles Kennedy was one of these rare people in politics. He was an incredibly talented, gifted, effective politician - I think one of the most talented politicians of his generation. And yet somehow he also managed to be universally liked across the political spectrum and indeed across wider society. That is no mean feat.

Charles will be remembered for many things. He made an outstanding and extraordinary contribution to, not just Scottish, but UK politics over a 30 year period. But I think he will be chiefly remembered for his principled opposition to the war in Iraq in 2003 and many of the concerns and criticisms he made then were of course subsequently found to be very well founded. And he also then – and perhaps partly because of that – went on to lead his party to its best ever election result in the 2005 general election.

I have some very fond personal memories of Charles. I had the privilege of spending some time with him on a political study visit that we made together to Australia in the mid-1990s. Perhaps my fondest memory from that visit – if perhaps a slightly bizarre memory - was of the two of us skiving off one day to watch Trainspotting in a Melbourne cinema.

I think we were the only two Scots in the audience at that time, so we drew some very strange looks from other people as we were uproariously laughing at lots of jokes that nobody else in the cinema were even beginning to understand. That’s a small, but very special memory that I certainly will always treasure.

The last thing to say about Charles for the moment is this – Charles Kennedy was a proud and passionate advocate of Europe and the UK’s membership of the European Union. His would have been an incredibly powerful voice in the upcoming EU referendum, so for that reason but also for many, many other reasons I think our country today is much poorer for the passing of Charles Kennedy. I am sure I am not the only one here today who wants to send thoughts and condolences to Charles’ family, his friends and to his party colleagues.


  1. What can one say, apart from my condolences to the family and friends of Mr Kennedy.

    1. Yes, particularly his son, who is just ten and who lost his granddad only a few weeks ago. I can't begin to think how awful that must be for him.

  2. It is a genuine tragedy. Particularily at a family level if the news is to be believed. His brother also has suffered grevious injury.

    Whilst I did not necessarily agree with Charles Kennedy latterly, I always admired him.


    1. Douglas... what news? Maybe I've missed something. I knew nothing about his brother being injured.

    2. I think this must be what people are referring to, it's about the fourth or fifth para in:


    3. Thanks Douglas.

  3. I was genuinely shocked by the news early this morning, something that rarely happens to me.

    Charles is one of the few politicians I ever had time for. I never voted for the Lib Dems or SDP, but he connected with me and I enjoyed listening to his speeches and watching him on the tv. A gifted orator, he was never arrogant, patronising or abusive, something that is unfortunately too common with many politicians both past and present.

    He was similar to Robin Cook, in that he would not sacrifice his principles for political advantage. His stance against the Iraq invasion was highly commendable. If you listen to the speech he made at the debate, you could sense the steel behind the man. He said himself he was no pacifist, and he was fully aware as to how evil Saddam was. But he argued brilliantly that was not enough excuse to start a second invasion (which in my view was Bush junior getting personal because Bush senior failed to topple Saddam).

    He was about the only Lib Dem who refused to be part of a coalition with the Tories. He knew it would destroy his party, as anyone with half a brain cell could see. He could have agreed to the coalition and no doubt secured a highly paid ministerial post. But no, principles came first, and for that he should be admired.

    He is also a rarity as someone who spent is entire life in politics, but managed to avoid the "production line" personality that the likes of Milliband has. He understood how real people lived, and he fought hard for his constituents.

    Although he lost his seat, he could have continued to make a real contribution to Scottish politics.

    As someone who has experienced relatives and friends with alcohol problems, I understand just how difficult it was for him to acknowledge publicly that he had a problem. That takes real guts.

    But it is his political contribution that should be remembered.

    As to the Twitter idiots, it is a bloody disgrace what some of them have been posting. Too often the media focuses on the cybernat brigade - occasionally justified - but to blame the SNP for his death is inexcusable, and action needs to be taken. Even if no criminality is evident, name and shame these b******s. Twitter has turned into a cesspool for the minority of plebs who profess to have political allegiances, but are true trolls.

    1. Great piece, Anon.

      Can't really add anything to it, except my agreement.

      As my mother pointed out when we were talking last night. This (the trolling) is the kind of low politics Charlie would have despised.

  4. I may not have liked his politics, he may not have cared for mine but this trolling and the people doing so are quite disgusting and something should but will not be done about it.
    It is a tragedy when anyone dies at such an early age, unfortunately he seems to have been unable to come to terms with his alcoholism, something which seems to flourish still within communities in the Highlands, we lost a friend who came form there who was also heading that way, but his asthma got there first.
    He had a self deprecating sense of humour and we caught him on HIGNFY when he was on, that was before they got so anti Scot.
    Nobody but the family knows how or why he died and it is wrong to speculate. I am equally sorry for his son, it is a lot to understand at his age.

    1. Yes. Booze is a great servant, and a terrible master.

      It happens everywhere, and to all sorts of people from all kinds of backgrounds, and not just in the highlands of Scotland. In all the northerly countries of the world where the weather is cold and wet and windy, and there are long and dark winters, alcohol is a problem.

      Rich countries like Greenland, Finland, Sweden, along with poor ones like Russia, suffer the same way.

      I wish they could find a cure. It blights so many lives.

    2. tris

      Thats one thing i do have smidgen of agreement with our Muslim
      brothers and sisters...its there position on alcohol mrs N is a fervent
      follower of muslim edicts on alcohol were i am concerned that is and to be very
      honest...............I do need control not a alcoholic but jolly well could/want to be.

    3. Well Niko, the deal is to make sure you are always in control of it, not it in control of you.

      Nothing wrong with a drink or two.

      Nothing wrong with a good blast from time to time (except the after effects).

      But you really don't want to be dependent on it.

      You recognise your situation... That's fair enough. Just don' let Taz near it!

  5. Alcoholism is NOT a disease. The insurance companies determined it a disease. Making lots of money was the impetus. There is no genetic relation to alcoholism as an illness/disease.

    Dependent on alcohol comes from a loss of coping mechanisms due to massive stress in daily life.

    1. According to AA you are right: We have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments, or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Therefore we always called it an illness, or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.

      Your definition 'a loss of coping mechanisms due to massive stress in daily life' sounds like a mental health problem to me. But it would be fair to say that many people find it hard to cope with the stress of daily life and never touch a drop!