Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy died suddenly on Monday at the age of 55. Kennedy’s family announced his death in a statement released yesterday morning, saying, “Charles was a fine man, a talented politician and a loving father to his young son.”
Politicians from across the political divide have since paid tribute to Kennedy, with former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg calling Kennedy “one of the most gifted politicians of his generation.”
Harriet Harman, acting leader of the Labour party, said Kennedy was “someone who fought for social justice and brought courage, wit and humour to everything he did,” while Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “someone of immense ability.”
“It’s not that often in politics that someone comes along with brains, talent, wit and bags of humanity, and Charles had all of those things,” Cameron said, adding, “He achieved so much, so young, and he’s been taken from us far too soon.”
Kennedy was first elected to parliament at the age of 23, as the Social Democratic party candidate for Ross, Cromarty and Skye. Despite being so young, he emerged as a leader in Westminster, and in the early 1990s, after the Social Democratic and Liberal parties merged, he was elected president of the Lib Dems. Five years later, he took over as party leader from Paddy Ashdown, until in 2006 he stepped down, citing problems with alcohol.
Perhaps best remembered for his opposition to the Iraq War, Kennedy was a backbencher until earlier this year, when he lost his seat at the General Election to an SNP challenger. After his defeat, Kennedy said that he hoped to remain “actively engaged” in politics, particularly the debate over Britain’s relationship with the EU.
“The next few years in politics will come down to a tale of two Unions – the UK and the EU,” he wrote last month. “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."