Remembering Charles

It’s two years since we woke up to the terrible news that our excellent and much loved former leader Charles Kennedy had gone.

He modelled a style of politics that was engaging and accepting – but passionate and clear, too. He had the courage to oppose the Iraq war.

He continues to inspire many of us.

Here is his 2013 speech to Conference on Europe. How we missed him during the EU Referendum.

Below is the last article he wrote for LDV just after he lost his seat in 2015.

I am very fond of political history. If nothing else, we can all reflect on and perhaps tell our grandchildren that we were there on “The night of long sgian dubhs!”

I would very much like to thank my home team. They have been so energetic, dedicated and selfless to the task. Indeed, with them, I would like to thank the very many over the years who have made possible the previous seven successful general election campaigns locally.

I spare a thought for, and this is true of so many constituencies, for members of staff. It is one thing for elected representatives to find themselves at the mercy of the electorate; it is quite something else for the other loyal and skilled people who, sadly, will in due course be searching for employment. I wish them well and stand ready to help. I am sure that their professionalism will stand them in good stead.

It has been the greatest privilege of my adult and public life to have served, for 32 years, as the Member of Parliament for our local Highlands and Islands communities. I would particularly like to thank the generation of voters, and then some, who have put their trust in me to carry out that role and its responsibilities.

Locally, I wish my successor the very best. The next House of Commons will have to finalise the Smith Commission package, giving effect to the referendum “Vow” over further powers. I am saddened not to be involved in that process.

However, from the perspective of the Highlands & Islands, the case for more powers being returned to us which have been lost to the Central Belt over the past five years, has to be heard as well.

On the national picture, I am indeed sorry to learn of Nick’s decision but respect entirely his characteristic sense of personal, political and party principle.

The eligible candidates must reflect with care and collectively before we rush into the best way forward – out of this political debris we must build with thought and care.

Nick, I do hope, will be able to contribute with gusto to the great European debate which is now looming.

It is one, as a Liberal Democrat, in which I wish to be actively engaged myself.

The next few years in politics will come down to a tale of two Unions – the UK and the EU. Despite all the difficult challenges ahead the Liberal Democrat voice must and will be heard.

We did so over Iraq; we can do so again. Let us relish the prospect.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • Not capable of typing anything beyond this. That Charles and Shirley supported the merger reinforced my then inclinations. Two wonderful people.

  • Sadly missed.

  • I don’t suppose you could extract a video of his 2001 conference speech (the closing one) which was flippin awesome.

    (Ok maybe not the top priority for the next 7 days 🙂

  • I give my time and energy to this site purely because of this man.
    He has been an inspiration to me since my student days and yes, when you listen to this level of skill, passion, commitment and pure tenacious grit, it is something to behold.

    However, Charles was of course an introvert by nature.
    Some leaders are born gifted and blessed with the skill set needed to inspire.
    Some like Charles learnt to hone their art to a high level.
    Many leaders come out of the shadows and grow to inspire and win.

    What comes through more than anything here though is his honestly, passion and absolute believe in what he is fighting for.
    I guess that’s why he commanded so much respect across the political divide.

    However, although Charles believed that being at the heart of Europe was best for our country and for the greater good, he did not let it define him, to the exclusion of everything else that helped to create a fair society here in Britain.

    This is the balancing act the Lib Dems now face.
    One issue can never define you no matter how important.

    The Lib Dems surely have a responsibility to provide a passionate vision of what constitutes a fair and just society in these Islands too, whilst maintaining as close a relationship with Europe as possible.

    I’m sure Charles would take a road back to the EU should one present itself, (and it might in the future) whilst at the same time working tirelessly to address the concerns that led to so many people to vote for Brexit in the first place. That I think is the real challenge.

    A lovely man with a rare talent and an inspiration to so very many including me.

  • Denis Mollison 3rd Jun '17 - 7:25am

    Just tragic. perhaps now isn’t the time for what ifs, but I often think how much the party and the country would be in a better place if he had succeeded in fighting off his disease.

  • Charles was loved and respected across the political spectrum, and for good reason. He spoke so much sense, and with reason, compassion and respect.

    I agree with Denis, that we should avoid the “what ifs”, but when the world of politics gets me down, I often mind myself wondering how much better we’d all be if we still had Charlie, and also Labour’s John Smith, who we also lost too soon. I suppose the best we can do is to remember their best qualities, and try to channel those in our own interactions.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jun '17 - 10:50am

    @Mike S “The Lib Dems surely have a responsibility to provide a passionate vision of what constitutes a fair and just society in these Islands …”
    Hear, hear.
    In this election campaign the Lib Dems have ceded that role to Jeremy Corbyn and the polls show what the result of that has been.

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Jun '17 - 4:43pm

    Simply betrayed. Remember that.

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Jun '17 - 4:44pm

    As was Ming.

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Jun '17 - 7:00pm

    My best memories of Charles were in the Ribble Valley by-election where I was running the NHS campaign (the constituency had about 11 hospitals and somehow 3000 of our leaflets addressed in envelopes got delivered to every ward and unit in four large sacks of NHS internal mail 🙂 ) and he was the NHS spokesperson. I also have a nice photo of him and me sharing a pint in the Imperial Hotel, Southport, when his drinking was rather slower. As the son of an alcoholic, I always have sympathy with him and his family in trying to get him to confront his problem.

  • Bernard Aris 4th Jun '17 - 1:48pm

    Charles Kennedy was the only Liberal Democrat leader in the past 27 years ever to address a D66 national conference (in 2002).
    People who were there still are blown away by his rhetorical skills, his humour, his insight (he warned us about the risk of an upcoming Iraq War, and Blair going along for the ride, to big applause). He experienced how much D66 and the LibDems have in comon.

    I have his photograph on my membership card.

    I hope we regain some Scotish seats next Thursday.

  • Paul Newman 4th Jun '17 - 11:07pm

    I have been helping Kelly Marie here in Lewes and coordinating with E Unity and other pro Europe groups . With a few days ago this is inspiring , there are more importnat things than being popular

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