Saddest news in ages came earlier this week with the death of Charles Kennedy. For anyone to die at just 55 is a tragedy, but for one so talented and respected, it’s just awful.
From the first time I could vote, until 2010, I supported the Liberal Democrats. This was in large part thanks to Charles Kennedy’s stewardship of the party and the high opinion I had of him. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way; in the 2005 General Election the Lib Dems won 62 seats, their best ever result (and a figure they’re unlikely to see again in the foreseeable future).
Kennedy was nicknamed “Chat Show Charlie” and mocked for regularly taking part in Have I Got News For You. However, he always came across well in his TV appearances, showing a quick wit and ability to laugh at himself that few other politicians seemed to have. In fact, wherever he spoke, in the House of Commons and elsewhere, he always demonstrated an ability to connect with ordinary people, communicating effectively without relying to soundbites or slogans. It’s an ability few MPs today are able to demonstrate, and one they would be advised to learn.
He led his party in taking a principled stance against the Iraq war in 2003, representing the views of the majority of British people. In 2010 he warned the Liberal Democrats against going into coalition with the Tories. On both these matters, he was completely right.
It’s terribly sad that he had his career, and his life, cut short. Listen to the glowing tributes that have been dished out from all sides of the political spectrum, and from many people outside the world of politics. Are there many (or indeed, any) other figures on the current political scene who would inspire those sorts of comments? Will people be lining up to pay tribute to Cameron, Blair or Clegg when they pop their clogs?