Charles Kennedy: frail with an air of magnificence
The former Liberal Democrat Party leader Charles Kennedy has died at his home in Fort William, Highland, Scotland aged 55. He brought a humanity not generally accepted or too well understood in 1983 when he entered the Westminster Parliament at 23-years-old and then the youngest MP. He continued to represent his home territory for 32 years and lost his seat to the Scottish National Party in May’s General Election.
He rose through the ranks to in 2001 lead his party to its strongest ever membership of the National Parliament.
In what many found to be a magnificent stand, Charles Kennedy fought against all-comers from other major parties over the proposed invasion and war in Iraq. There is little doubt he was right in every respect in his then dire predictions of what was to follow. When it finally struggles into print. the long-delayed Chilcot Inquiry may very well be his finest epitaph.
Kennedy’s humanity had its fragility and alcohol abuse destroyed his professional and home life.
What was totally unique about him was he could attend social gatherings in Highland Village halls and stately country homes alike and very soon be flat out and sleeping off excesses on the hall floor or in the temporary bar. The evening’s guests would step over him while the festivities went on and all would ensure someone saw he was safely delivered home at the end of the night.
His friends and neighbours accepted him for what he was and understood he suffered from the worst of all conditions – West Highland Disease – otherwise recognised as chronic alcoholism. Above all else he was loved and respected as a Highlander doing the best he could for his voters and country alike. The Nationalist fervour now endemic in Scotland swept him to one side. He was devastated by the loss of his constituency his mainstay support.
Just this once the cliche “We will never see his like again” may very well be true and we all are the poorer for the loss of his total honesty, essential decency and… yes, even those frailties which destroyed him.