It is with great sadness that I have read today of the death of Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Like Paddy Ashdown before him, Charles was a very unique character in British politics, the sort of leader Liberal Democrats excell in finding, somebody who despite being totally versed in the ways of Westminster still managed to allow the warmth and generosity of his character to shine through.
His wit, be it the one liners you saw on Have I Got News For You, or the tales of the campaign trail he would regail you with at dinner, had all the flair of the great comedians, and yet in an instant he could turn to lay out the tragedy of the millions lost in an illegal war, or the suffering of the poorest paid in our country.
Paddy Ashdown is the man who led the Liberal Democrats back from oblivion, but it was Charles Kennedy who re-established Liberalism as a philiosophy central to the British way of life. He didn’t walk down the middle of the road, he positively strode down progressive Liberal path that was at times entirely his own.
Anyone who tells you that all politicians are the same clearly never had the opportunity to meet Charles Kennedy. Despite spending all his adult life in the Westminster bubble he was a man who could give the air of a professional politician and still remain totally human and charming and warm.
When he spoke you heard the words of a man totally committed to the causes of freedom and justice and democracy that set Liberal Democrats apart from the Labour and Conservative parties, and when you sat with him to talk he really was the great listener.
Charles Kennedy was a man of conviction who gave not just his party, but his country, so much. He will be very dearly missed by all of us who knew him personally, and by millions who only knew him from a distance.
May he rest in peace.