“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.

Hislop describes his nervousness as he read Dylan Thomas’s poem ‘And death shall have no Dominion’ at Kennedy’s memorial service.

It was partly that I was not sure I knew him sufficiently well, but also that I was standing at a lectern looking at an incredible gallery of famous political faces in the congregation, many of whom I have not been very kind about over the last few decades.

He ends his tribute in a way that only he could do:

Strangely, I ended up reading out two poems in memory of Charles this year. The first was in St George’s Cathedral in Southwark, at the memorial service in November, and the second was at the National Theatre in the middle of Private Eye’s live review of 2015. We had been featuring poetic obituaries by the Eye’s fictional poet, EJ Thribb, and I thought I would risk ending on this one.

“So Farewell
Then Charles Kennedy
Decent likable
Principled funny
And yet somehow a
politician”

The audience laughed at this and I continued to the closing lines…

“A man of great
Spirit. Though
Alas in the end
Too much of it.
Cheers.”

And then the audience applauded enthusiastically. I think Charles would have laughed. And they were applauding him.

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3 Comments

  • Thomas Shakespeare 28th Dec '15 - 11:52am

    A very moving tribute

  • Richard Underhill 28th Dec '15 - 10:24pm

    The Scotch whisky industry is an important exporter and provides a constituency interest for many MPs in Scotland.
    The right thing to do with it is to export it. Domestic consumption distracts from thisd objective, but it seems to happen, Argentinians eat a lot of beef, Saudis use a lot of petrol.
    What happens to all those Australian kangaroos when the UK does not have a problem with BSE?

  • Simon Banks 29th Dec '15 - 5:46pm

    Yes, a moving and honest tribute.

    I assume Richard’s comment is tongue in cheek. I recall going wet and cold into a Highland pub when I was just beginning to learn about the single malt and choosing a glass of the Royal Lochnagar. The landlord read out the text on the bottle: “By appointment to their late Majesties Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V”. He paused and said, “There’s one thing all those people have in common.” He paused again. “They’re all deid.”

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