Remembering Charles Kennedy on what would have been his 60th birthday

On 25th November 1959, Charles Kennedy was born. He was raised near Fort William and went on to be elected as the SDP MP for Ross, Cromarty and Skye when he was just 23 in 1983.

He went on to become the second leader of the Liberal Democrats and was one of the most popular politicians in the UK. His easy-going public persona and his immense political courage won him many friends across and outside politics.

He was a passionate internationalist and European and totally committed to social justice. He talked about being a voice for the dispossessed who were being ignored by other parties.

He was one of the few to emerge from the deeply divisive referendum on Scottish independence with the respect and admiration of both sides. He argued with wit and wisdom for what he believed in and always showed respect for the other side. He was a great role model in the art of disagreeing well.

He had to show grace in the most vicious of situations. When he led the Liberal Democrats to oppose the war in Iraq in 2005, he was villified for it and treated with utter contempt in the Commons. A decade later, politicians from all sides paid heartfelt tribute to him when he died, too soon.

It was only afterwards that we learned of the close friendship he had built with Alastair Campbell, the chief spin doctor of the Blair years.

Just after he died, Channel 4 news produced this snapshot of his life. It certainly brought a tear to my eye.

You have to wonder how the EU referendum would have gone if he had had a hand in the campaign to stay in. He was such a committed internationalist and he would certainly have been a prominent pro EU voice.

It’s not just the Liberal Democrats that are poorer without him, but the whole country. Charles is still so very much missed.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Yousuf Farah 25th Nov '19 - 11:34pm

    I confess I didn’t know about him when he was alive because I was young, well when he was the party leader I was very young. But from what I’ve learnt about him I get the impression that he must’ve been a great man. But I have to say that I was appalled but unsurprised at the replies to the twitter posts above, especially the bottom one. There’s something messed up about using a remembrance of the life of someone whose past away, for cheap digs and score points.

  • I am utterly convinced that, had he still been alive, we would not be where we are today because he would have been the difference the Remain campaign needed in 2016. His relatability, his oratory, and above all his leadership would have had us in a much better place. He is sorely missed.

  • Denis Mollison 26th Nov '19 - 12:14pm

    A great man. And the only Lib Dem MP to vote against the coalition agreement with the Tories in 2010. British politics might have been in an altogether better place today if only we had listened to him.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Nov '19 - 1:27pm

    After his election in the 1983 general election Charles Kennedy commented about David Owen claiming to know every winner, whereas he did not know the only gain.
    More recently, at federal conference in Glasgow he focussed on regional government in England. Surprisingly Tony Blair had asked for Charles Kennedy’s help. Charles went to Tony Blair’s constituency

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