Serving as MP 'The Greatest Privilege' Warm Tributes Have Poured in from across the Political Spectrum to Former Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy, Whose Death at the Age of 55 Has Shocked Westminster. Katrine Bussey Charts the Life of a Gifted Politician Known for Wit, Humour and Humility

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 3, 2015 | Go to article overview

Serving as MP 'The Greatest Privilege' Warm Tributes Have Poured in from across the Political Spectrum to Former Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy, Whose Death at the Age of 55 Has Shocked Westminster. Katrine Bussey Charts the Life of a Gifted Politician Known for Wit, Humour and Humility


LESS than a month ago Charles Kennedy said that serving as an MP had been the "greatest privilege" of his life.

After 32 years in the House of Commons, the 55-year-old - who had fought a very public battle with alcohol - was ousted from his Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency as the SNP swept the board in May's general election.

Mr Kennedy was one of several high-profile Liberal Democrat casualties in what was a dismal night for Nick Clegg's team, with both Vince Cable and Danny Alexander also losing their seats as the party saw its tally of MPs fall to just eight.

Despite the defeat, Mr Kennedy had at the time vowed to continue in politics.

After the result was announced, he said be would "personally be sorry not to be a voice in the Commons" before adding that he intended to "contribute in whatever way possible to the wider political debate and the activity of the Liberal Democrats".

He said: "The greatest privilege of my public life over these past 32 years has to be being entrusted with the responsibility of representing this constituency.

"That is thanks to a generation and more of voters who have extended that trust to me and I hope, looking back over those 32 years, they will feel that it was trust well placed."

When he was first elected as the Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP for the area Mr Kennedy was the youngest member in the House of Commons at that time.

Political life was very different then.

"When I was first an MP in 1983, most Members of Parliament at the House of Commons did not possess a fax machine," he recalled.

"There was no 24-hour television news, breakfast-time television scarcely existed."

The SDP went on to merge with the Liberal Democrats, and Mr Kennedy eventually became the party leader.

The man who was nicknamed "Chat Show Charlie" - in part a reference to his appearance on shows such as Have I Got News For You - took over the leadership in 1999 from Sir Paddy Ashdown.

Mr Kennedy will perhaps be best remembered for his vocal and principled opposition of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But his period in charge was brought to an end in January 2006, just days after he publicly admitted he had a problem with alcohol.

Born in Inverness, Mr Kennedy was educated at Lochaber High School in Fort William before going on to Glasgow University - and was later elected by students there to be their Rector.

Following his graduation from university in 1982, he worked as a journalist and broadcaster with BBC Highland in Inverness.

The following year he was working towards a PhD at Indiana when he had the chance to put himself forward as the SDP candidate for the Ross, Cromarty and Skye seat in the general election. …

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Serving as MP 'The Greatest Privilege' Warm Tributes Have Poured in from across the Political Spectrum to Former Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy, Whose Death at the Age of 55 Has Shocked Westminster. Katrine Bussey Charts the Life of a Gifted Politician Known for Wit, Humour and Humility
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