Tag Archives: charles kennedy

Book review: Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw by Greg Hurst

I had a chance to read this recently updated book while on holiday in West Africa. It is a remarkably fine volume. Painstakingly researched and impeccably sourced, it offers a skillfully balanced portrait of a remarkable and inspiring man. As the title suggests, the author does not hold back on the human frailties of its subject but these are, nevertheless, presented as part of a rounded, fair and endearing commentary. I feel this book helps us to inch forward a little further in understanding the rather enigmatic Charles Kennedy, while deconstructing a few myths along the way.

I’ll pick out a few parts of the book which particularly caught my attention:

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Repost: Charles Kennedy’s New Year’s Day reflections from 2014

In 2014, we faced European elections and a Scottish referendum. In 2016, we face Scottish Elections and an EU Referendum. On New Year’s Day, Charles Kennedy sent us his reflections on the year ahead. There is much in here that is relevant today, particularly the bit about being “bold to the point of fearlessness” about portraying our unique political optimism. It brought a tear to my eye reading it. He is so missed.

Locally and nationally 2014 is going to be a decisive one – not just for us Liberal Democrats but for Scotland, the UK and the European Union

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“Whatever jokes he made about himself, he was nobody’s fool”

 

Ian Hislop remembered Charles Kennedy in The Observer yesterday.  He writes:

think Charles would have laughed. David Cameron was one of the last to arrive at his memorial service and walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The only one available was in a pew next to Nick Clegg. “Awkward,” said someone sitting next to me as the prime minister greeted his former coalition partner warmly and sat down.

Politics is a funny business in both senses of the word – bizarre and comic – and Charles Kennedy always had a keen sense of this. It was why the public warmed to him so strongly because he realised that the world that engaged him so passionately could strike ordinary people as strange or ridiculous. Acknowledging this was a way to bridge the gap and he was always very good on Have I Got News for You, irreverently answering questions using exaggerated political cliches or avoiding them entirely using absurd evasive euphemisms.

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Jim Wallace’s inaugural Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture: Charles’ legacy should be a call to refresh our radicalism

Five days before what would have been Charles Kennedy’s 56th birthday, Jim Wallace, who entered the Commons on the same day as Charles in 1983, delivered the inaugural Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture in Fort William. Seeing Charles Kennedy and Memorial in the same sentence still freaks me out slightly. It feels very wrong.

Jim has very kindly provided us with a copy of his lecture so that those of us who couldn’t make it up to Fort William can hear what he had to say. His subject was Charles, the legacy he left of internationalism and an example of always conducting his politics with respect and how his values were shaped by his highland background. He talks about the challenges we now face as a party and how we can learn from Charles as we deal with the challenges we face.

Here is the lecture in full. It’s long, over 5000 words, but, do you know what, every single one is worth reading. Go make yourself nice cup of tea, put your feet up and enjoy.

In keeping with many public lectures in the Highlands, albeit of a somewhat different nature, I start with a text: from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 51, verse 1 –

Look unto the rock from which you are hewn.

It is an enormous privilege to have been asked this evening to deliver the inaugural Charles Kennedy memorial lecture; to speak about one of my closest friends in politics, Charles, and how his politics were shaped by his roots in this Highland community, and the Highland Liberal tradition.

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Remembering Charles Kennedy’s character, wit, ascent and triumphs: a report from today’s London service

This was no wake, this was a celebratory thanksgiving to the Charles Kennedy we knew and loved.  Held, not in Westminster, but in Charles’ own London parish church – the Catholic Cathedral of St George, Southwark.  As one Liberal Democrat peer wisely observed after the service – Charles would have liked that the residents of the Village of Westminster had had to come down to his manor here in Southwark.

So often with memorial services of people whom we have lost untimely there is a sense of what might have been.  Instead this celebration marvelled at just how much Charles had achieved so young, and with apparent effortlessness.  This was a welcome and deserved recollection of the character, the wit, the ascent and triumphs of Charles.

There were elements that were not highlights of the service – but rather illuminations of the brilliance, the reach and nature of Charles himself: Jim Naughtie (BBC World at One and Today) reflected just how special and unique a politician Charles was; Ian Hislop, at the request of the family, read the serious and challenging Death shall have no dominion by Dylan Thomas; and former Intern in Charles’ office, Eleanor Sanderson-Nash held the cathedral spell-bound with her performance of Vissi D’Arte, from Puccini’s Tosca (and evoked a spontaneous round of applause).

Leading politicians from all parties – but largely drawn from the Liberal Democrat family – gathered as a clan to remember, smile and laugh.  But for me the real stand out feature that credits Charles the man, was the sheer number of Liberal Democrat former Westminster parliamentary staff in attendance.  This was not just their affection for him, but the truth that Charles had noticed them in their time at Westminster.  And so today they came in huge numbers to pay their respects.  Prayers from Revd Canon Mark Soady for example – clergyman yes – colleague and friend yes – but longstanding front-line staffer of 4 Cowley Street, well known to Charles, who acknowledged all staff in HQ whenever he was there.

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London memorial for Charles Kennedy confirmed

Charles KennedyMany people, particularly those who weren’t able to make it to the Glasgow University event earlier in the summer, have expressed an interest in paying their respects to Charles if a London based event were also to be held.  This has now been arranged and the details are:

3.30pm, Tuesday November 3rd, St George’s Cathedral, Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HR

The event is open to all although, as seating may be limited, attendees are asked to confirm in advance by applying at:[email protected]

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Alex Cole-Hamilton wins best speaker in Charles Kennedy Memorial Debate

ACH in GUU debateIt still feels surreal and wrong to be attending a Charles Kennedy Memorial anything, but on Friday night I headed to Glasgow University Union to see the debate set up in his honour. After a gin and tonic in the beer bar, which, unlike in Charles’ day now plays intrusive music, I headed up to my seat in the gods. The floor of the chamber was filled with people in their bling and black tie who had been lucky enough to get tickets for the dinner which was to follow the proceedings.

The motion was

This House believes that the UK should remain within the European Union:

Speaking in favour were Scottish Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, our candidate for Edinburgh Western Alex Cole-Hamilton, theatrical Tory MEP Ian Duncan and Alistair, soon to be Lord, Darling. The opposition were made up of businessman John Mills, sociology professor Neil Davidson, Heather Whiteside, a former GUU Debates Convener and Graham Stringer MP.

Ming Campbell, wearing some pretty spectacular tartan trews, was in the chair.

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