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  1. Politics
3 June 2015

Leader: Remembering Charles Kennedy

Everyone can be wise after the event; Kennedy was often wise before it.

By New Statesman

Few who have served in politics as long as Charles Kennedy did have been so fondly remembered. That the passing of the former Liberal Democrat leader, who died at home in Fort William on 1 June at the age of 55, has been greeted with such sadness is a reflection of his qualities: decency, principle, kindness and wit. He served as an MP for 32 years, becoming the youngest sitting member at the age of 23 in 1983, when he was elected as an SDP MP for the constituency then known as Ross, Cromarty and Skye.

As leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999, he propelled his party to its best-ever election performance, winning 62 seats in 2005. This success was in no small measure due to his principled opposition to the Iraq war. Mr Kennedy was denounced inside and outside parliament as an appeaser – “Charlie Chamberlain” – but many of his foes later wished they had shared his prescience. In 2010, he was one of just three Lib Dem MPs to oppose the formation of a coalition with the Conservatives. Everyone can be wise after the event; Mr Kennedy was often wise before it.

The party to which he devoted most of his life and the cause for which he campaigned during the Scottish independence referendum – unionism – are today both imperilled. If they are to recover it will be by embodying the values that Mr Kennedy so unceasingly stood for.

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