Former Lib Dem Leader Charles Kennedy Dies Aged 55

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has died suddenly at his home aged 55.

The Scottish ex-MP's death was not believed to be suspicious and the cause of death has yet to be confirmed.

A statement released on behalf of his family said: "It is with great sadness, and an enormous sense of shock, that we announce the death of Charles Kennedy.

"Charles died at home in Fort William yesterday. He was 55. We are obviously devastated at the loss.

"Charles was a fine man, a talented politician, and a loving father to his young son. We ask therefore that the privacy of his family is respected in the coming days.

"There will be a post-mortem and we will issue a further statement when funeral arrangements are made."

A spokesman for Police Scotland said "there are no suspicious circumstances".

The father-of-one lost his seat in the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency to the SNP's Ian Blackford in May's General Election.

Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg called his predecessor an "unflappable" and "courageous" politician.

"Charles's untimely death robs Britain of one of the most gifted politicians of his generation," he said in a statement.

"Charles devoted his life to public service, yet he had an unusual gift for speaking about politics with humour and humility which touched people well beyond the world of politics."

An MP since 1983, Mr Kennedy had previously taken the party to its best election result since the 1920s at the 2005 contest.

His political career began in the Social Democratic Party, winning the Ross, Cromarty and Skye seat to become the youngest MP of the time at the age of 23.

Taking over from Paddy Ashdown in 1999, he went on to lead the party through its most successful period .

Sky's Deputy Political Editor Joey Jones said: "What marked him out was the fact that people felt he was a normal, likeable man as much as a politician; and he retained his charm after taking on the party's leadership in 1999.

"Not many politicians could switch from exhibiting passion and conviction at the despatch box, to wit and bonhomie that served him well in interviews but also panel shows like Have I Got News for You."

Lord Ashdown tweeted his tribute: "Charles Kennedy. In a political age not overburdened with gaiety and good sense, he brought us wit, charm, judgement, principle and decency."

Mr Kennedy's leadership was marked by his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which helped propel the Liberal Democrats to their best result in more than 80 years with 62 seats.

But in January 2006 - following months of rumours about his drinking - Mr Kennedy admitted he had been receiving treatment for an alcohol problem and called a leadership contest.

While he declared that he wanted to carry on, he was forced to stand down in the face of the threat of mass resignations by senior colleagues.

Former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik told Sky News he had been concerned about Mr Kennedy following his defeat in May.

"I have to say that Charles Kennedy's heart was probably too big for this world. It was inevitable that this was going to happen."

Source: Sky News

Publish Date: 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015