Charles Kennedy

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Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy MP (cropped).jpg
Charles Kennedy in 2006
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
In office
9 August 1999 7 January 2006
Deputy
President
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Liberal Democrat Leader of the House of Commons
In office
1 May 1997 9 August 1999
Leader Paddy Ashdown
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded by Alan Beith
President of the Liberal Democrats
In office
1 January 1991 31 December 1994
Leader Paddy Ashdown
Preceded by Ian Wrigglesworth
Succeeded by Robert Maclennan
Member of Parliament
for Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Ross, Skye and Inverness West (1997–2005)
Ross, Cromarty and Skye (1983–1997)
In office
9 June 1983 7 May 2015
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded by Ian Blackford
Personal details
Born
Charles Peter Kennedy

(1959-11-25)25 November 1959
Inverness, Scotland
Died1 June 2015(2015-06-01) (aged 55)
Fort William, Scotland
NationalityScottish
Political party Liberal Democrats (1988–2015) (his death)
Other political
affiliations
Social Democratic Party (1981-1988)
Labour (1974–1981)
Spouse(s)Sarah Gurling (2002–2010)
Children1
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Indiana University

Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a Scottish Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 to 2006, and a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1983 to 2015, latterly for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency. [1] [2]

Liberal Democrats (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Liberal Democrats are a liberal political party in the United Kingdom. Currently led by Jo Swinson, the party has 18 Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, 96 members of the House of Lords, 16 members of the European Parliament, five Members of the Scottish Parliament and one member in each of the Welsh Assembly and the London Assembly. It was in a coalition government with the Conservative Party from 2010 to 2015.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats most senior politician within the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom

The Liberal Democrats are a political party in the United Kingdom. Party members elect the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrat members of Parliament also elect a Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons, often colloquially referred to as the Deputy Leader. Under the federal constitution of the Liberal Democrats the leader is required to be a member of the House of Commons.

1983 United Kingdom general election election for members of the British House of Commons

The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of the Labour Party in 1945.

Contents

Kennedy became at different times a member of three political parties. At the age of 15 he joined the Labour Party, [1] followed in 1981 by the newly formed SDP (Social Democratic Party), and in 1988, the Liberal Democrats, when the SDP merged with the Liberal Party. [1]

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom that has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists. The party's platform emphasises greater state intervention, social justice and strengthening workers' rights.

Social Democratic Party (UK) political party in the United Kingdom (1981-88)

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) is a centrist political party in the United Kingdom. The party supported a mixed economy, electoral reform, European integration and a decentralized state while rejecting the possibility of trade unions being overly influential within the industrial sphere.

Liberal Party (UK) political party of the United Kingdom, 1859–1988

The Liberal Party was one of the two major parties in the United Kingdom with the opposing Conservative Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The party arose from an alliance of Whigs and free trade-supporting Peelites and the reformist Radicals in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, it had formed four governments under William Gladstone. Despite being divided over the issue of Irish Home Rule, the party returned to government in 1905 and then won a landslide victory in the following year's general election.

At the 1983 general election, Kennedy was elected for the SDP aged 23. He quickly emerged as a potential party leader; in 1991, after the Alliance parties had merged, he became President of the Liberal Democrats, a position that he held for the next four years.

SDP–Liberal Alliance

The SDP–Liberal Alliance was a centrist political and electoral alliance in the United Kingdom. Formed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Liberal Party, the Alliance was established in 1981, contesting the 1983 general election, 1984 European election and 1987 general election. The Alliance ceased to exist in 1988, when the two component parties merged to form the Social and Liberal Democrats, later renamed the Liberal Democrats.

In 1999, Following the resignation of Paddy Ashdown, Kennedy was elected as party leader at the age of 39. He led the party through two general elections, increasing its number of seats in the House of Commons to 62, the highest level since the Liberal Party won 158 seats in 1923, and led his party's opposition to the Iraq War. A charismatic and affable speaker in public, he appeared extensively on television during his leadership.

Paddy Ashdown British politician and diplomat

Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon,, known as Paddy Ashdown, was a British politician and diplomat who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 to 1999. He achieved international recognition for his role in Bosnia–Herzegovina as its High Representative from 2002 to 2006, following his vigorous lobbying for military action against Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

1923 United Kingdom general election

The 1923 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 6 December 1923. The Conservatives, led by Stanley Baldwin, won the most seats, but Labour, led by Ramsay MacDonald, and H. H. Asquith's reunited Liberal Party gained enough seats to produce a hung parliament. It was the last UK general election in which a third party won more than 100 seats, or received more than 26% of the vote.

Opposition to the Iraq War

Significant opposition to the Iraq War occurred worldwide, both before and during the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, United Kingdom, and smaller contingents from other nations, and throughout the subsequent occupation. People and groups opposing the war include the governments of many nations which did not take part in the invasion, and significant sections of the populace in those that did.

During the latter stages of Kennedy's leadership, there was concern about both his leadership and his health. From December 2005, some within the party were openly questioning his position and calling for a leadership election. On 5 January 2006, he was informed that ITN would be reporting that he had received treatment for a drinking problem; he pre-empted the broadcast by admitting that he had had treatment, and called a leadership election in which he intended to stand. This admission damaged his standing; 25 MPs signed a statement urging him to resign immediately, [3] which he did on 7 January; he was replaced by Menzies Campbell.

ITN British-based news and content provider

Independent Television News (ITN) is a UK-based television production company. It is made up of two divisions: Broadcast News and ITN Productions. ITN is based in London, with bureaux and offices in Beijing, Brussels, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, New York, Paris, Sydney and Washington DC.

Menzies Campbell British Liberal Democrat politician and advocate

Walter Menzies Campbell, Baron Campbell of Pittenweem,, often known as Ming Campbell, is a British Liberal Democrat politician, advocate and former athlete. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for North East Fife from 1987 to 2015 and was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2 March 2006 until 15 October 2007.

After resigning as party leader, Kennedy remained in office as a backbench MP. After the 2010 general election he voted against Nick Clegg's decision to form a coalition with the Conservative Party. [4] On the issue of constitutional reform, he was a long-term supporter of full home rule for Scotland within a federal United Kingdom within a federal Europe. [5] [6] He lost his seat at the 2015 general election to Ian Blackford of the SNP, and died less than a month later from a haemorrhage linked to his alcoholism. [7]

2010 United Kingdom general election election of members to the House of Commons in 2010

The 2010 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 6 May 2010, with 45,597,461 registered voters entitled to vote to elect members to the House of Commons. The election took place in 650 constituencies across the United Kingdom under the first-past-the-post system. None of the parties achieved the 326 seats needed for an overall majority. The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the largest number of votes and seats, but still fell 20 seats short. This resulted in a hung parliament where no party was able to command a majority in the House of Commons. This was only the second general election since the Second World War to return a hung parliament, the first being the February 1974 election. Unlike in 1974, the potential for a hung parliament had this time been widely considered and predicted, and both the country and politicians were better prepared for the constitutional process that would follow such a result. The coalition government that was subsequently formed was the first coalition in British history to eventuate directly from an election outcome. The hung parliament came about in spite of the Conservatives managing both a higher vote total and higher share of the vote than the previous Labour government had done in 2005, when it secured a comfortable majority.

Nick Clegg Former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg is a British former politician who served as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2015 and as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2007 to 2015. An "Orange Book" liberal, Clegg served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheffield Hallam from 2005 to 2017 and has been associated with both socially liberal and economically liberal policies. He is Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, known informally as the Tories, and historically also known as the Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 288 Members of Parliament, and also has 234 members of the House of Lords, 4 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 11 members of the Welsh Assembly, 8 members of the London Assembly and 7,445 local councillors.

Early life

Fort William, Highland High Street Fort William - geograph.org.uk - 943438.jpg
Fort William, Highland

Kennedy was born in Inverness, the son of Mary and Ian Kennedy. [8] He had a Roman Catholic upbringing, and was educated at Lochaber High School in Fort William. [9] He went on to study for a Master of Arts degree in Politics and Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Kennedy first became politically active at university, where he joined the SDP as well as the Dialectic Society. [9] Between 1980 and 1981, Kennedy was President of the Glasgow University Union. He won the Observer Mace debating competition in 1982, speaking with Clark McGinn. [10]

Upon graduation in 1982, Kennedy went to work for BBC Scotland as a journalist. [11] He later received a Fulbright Fellowship which allowed him to carry out research at Indiana University in the United States. [12]

Early political career

While studying in America, Kennedy received the SDP nomination to stand for the Scottish seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye—then held by the Conservative Hamish Gray—at the 1983 general election. In a shock result, Kennedy won the seat, becoming the youngest sitting Member of Parliament, aged 23. He served on the Social Services select committee from 1985 to 1987, retained his seat at the 1987 general election, and served on the Televising of Proceedings of the House select committee from 1987 to 1989. [13]

He was the first of the five SDP MPs to support its merger with the Liberal Party (with which the SDP was co-operating in the SDP–Liberal Alliance) because of pressure from Liberal activists in his constituency. [14] The parties merged in 1988, forming the Social and Liberal Democratic Party, later renamed the Liberal Democrats.

Kennedy moved into frontbench politics in 1989, becoming the party's spokesperson for Health. After retaining his seat in the 1992 general election he served as the spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs during the 1992–97 parliament. He retained his seat in the 1997 general election and served on the Standards and Privileges select committee from 1997 to 1999. [13]

He was Liberal Democrat Party President from 1990 to 1994, and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the office of the Leader of the House of Commons from 1997 to 1999. [13]

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Kennedy was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats on 9 August 1999, after the retirement of Paddy Ashdown. He won 57% of the transferred vote under the Alternative Vote system, beating the runner-up Simon Hughes (43% of the transferred vote), Malcolm Bruce, Jackie Ballard and David Rendel. In the same year he was sworn in as a Member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.

Kennedy's style of leadership differed from Ashdown's, being regarded as more conversational and relaxed. He was labelled "Chatshow Charlie" by some observers as a result of his appearances on the satirical panel game Have I Got News for You .

2001 general election

In his first major campaign, the 2001 general election, Kennedy, along with his "election guru" Lord Rennard, targeted the Liberal Democrats' campaign on a limited number of seats in such a way as to turn a lower level of national support into a greater number of parliamentary seats. They won 52 seats with an 18.3% share of the vote. This was a 1.5% improvement in vote share (and an improvement of six seats) over the 1997 election, but smaller than the 25.4% vote share the SDP/Liberal Alliance had achieved in 1983, which won it 23 seats.

Opposition to the war in Iraq

Kennedy led his party's opposition to the Iraq War, with all Liberal Democrats voting against or abstaining in the vote for the invasion of Iraq—the largest British party to do so.

Health concerns

In July 2002, Jeremy Paxman publicly apologised after asking Kennedy about his drinking in a television interview. [15] Reports emerged of Kennedy's ill-health in 2003 at the time of crucial debates on the Iraq War and after the 2004 Budget [16] along with linked rumours of a drinking problem which were strenuously denied at the time by both Kennedy and his party. The Times published an apology over a report it had made stating Kennedy had not taken part in that year's Budget debate because of excessive drinking. [17]

In April 2005, the launch of his party's manifesto for the 2005 general election was delayed because of the birth of his first child, with Menzies Campbell taking temporary charge as acting leader and covering Kennedy's campaign duties. At the manifesto launch, on his first day back on the campaign trail after the birth, Kennedy struggled to remember the details of a key policy (replacing the council tax with a local income tax) at an early morning press conference, which he later blamed on a lack of sleep due to his new child. [18] [19] [20]

2005 general election

Kennedy during the 2005 election campaign Charles Peter Kennedy.jpg
Kennedy during the 2005 election campaign

In his last general election as leader, in May 2005, he extended his strategy from the 2001 election of targeting the seats held by the most senior and/or highly regarded Conservative MPs, dubbed a "decapitation" strategy. [21] The expectation was that without these "key" figures, the Conservatives would be discredited as the official opposition allowing Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats to claim that they were the "effective opposition". At the same time they also hoped to capture marginal Labour seats, attracting (particularly Muslim) Labour voters who were dissatisfied because of the invasion of Iraq, which Kennedy's party had opposed. They had succeeded with this tactic in by-elections, taking Brent East and Leicester South from Labour.

Just before the election, it had been anticipated by the media and opinion polls that the Liberal Democrats could win up to 100 seats and place them close to the Conservatives in terms of seats as well as votes. [22] They won 62 seats (22.1% of the vote), their greatest number of seats since the Liberal Party's 1923 result, but significantly less than most observers had expected the party to win.

They made a net loss of seats to the Conservatives, only managing to win three seats from them (Solihull, Taunton and Westmorland and Lonsdale) with their biggest "scalp" being that of the Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins. They failed to unseat leading Conservatives such as the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Oliver Letwin, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, Shadow Secretary of State for the Family Theresa May and the Leader of the Opposition Michael Howard. The "decapitation" strategy was widely seen to have failed.

They won significant numbers of seats from Labour, winning particularly in student areas such as Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester, but did not see the breakthrough in areas with large Asian populations that some had expected, and even lost Leicester South. They succeeded in regaining the seat of Ceredigion, their first gain from the Welsh party Plaid Cymru.

Kennedy heralded the Liberal Democrats, who now had a total of 62 seats, as the "national party of the future", [23] but in the wake of the general election, Kennedy's leadership came under increased criticism from those who felt that the Liberal Democrats could have surged forward, with the official opposition Conservative Party having been relatively weak. Many pointed the finger of blame at Kennedy for failing to widen the party's appeal. Others, like the former Deputy Chairman of the Federal Liberal Democrat Party, Donnachadh McCarthy, resigned, citing the party's shift to the right of the political spectrum under Kennedy in pursuit of Conservative votes. [24]

Leadership concerns

After the election of David Cameron as Leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005, it was widely reported that senior members of the Liberal Democrats had told Kennedy that he must either "raise his game" or resign. [25] On 13 December 2005, the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson claimed that there were briefings against the leader, with members of his party unhappy at what they saw as 'lack of leadership' from Kennedy.

Speculation surrounding the leadership of the Liberal Democrats was widespread in late 2005, with the journalist Andrew Neil claiming to speak "on good authority" that Kennedy would announce his resignation at the 2006 spring conference of the Liberal Democrats. Kennedy's spokeswoman denied the report and complained against the BBC, which had broadcast it.

A "Kennedy Must Go" petition was started by The Liberal magazine (a publication with no affiliation to the Liberal Democrats); this allegedly had been signed by over 3,300 party members including 386 local councillors and two MPs by the end of 2005. [26] A round-robin letter signed by Liberal Democrat MPs rejecting his leadership received 23 signatures. [27]

Resignation

Kennedy in October 2007. Charles Kennedy, October 2007.jpg
Kennedy in October 2007.

On 6 January 2006, Kennedy was informed that ITN would be reporting that he had received treatment for a drinking problem. He decided to pre-empt the broadcast, called a sudden news conference, and made a personal statement that over the past eighteen months he had been coming to terms with a drinking problem, but had sought professional help. He told reporters that recent questions among his colleagues about his suitability as leader were partly as a result of the drinking problem but stated that he had been dry for the past two months and would be calling a leadership contest, in which he would stand, to resolve the issues surrounding his authority once and for all. [28] [29] It was later claimed that the source for ITN's story was his former press secretary turned ITV News correspondent, Daisy McAndrew. [30]

The admission of a drinking problem seriously damaged his standing, and 25 MPs signed a statement urging him to resign immediately. [3] It was later claimed in a biography of Kennedy by the journalist Greg Hurst that senior Liberal Democrats had known about Kennedy's drinking problem when he was elected as leader in 1999, and had subsequently kept it hidden from the public. [31] [32]

On 7 January 2006, Kennedy called another press conference, at which he announced that while he was buoyed by the supportive messages he had received from grass root members, he felt that he could not continue as leader because of the lack of confidence from the parliamentary party. He said he would not be a candidate in the leadership election and was standing down as leader "with immediate effect", with Menzies Campbell to act as interim leader until a new leader was elected.

He also confirmed in his resignation statement that he did not expect to remain on the Liberal Democrat Frontbench Team. He pledged his loyalty to a new leader as a backbencher, and said he wished to remain active in the party and in politics. Campbell went on to win the resulting leadership election, and Kennedy subsequently gave his successor full public support. [33] His leadership had lasted slightly less than six years and five months. [34]

Later political career

Backbencher

Charles Kennedy attending a debate at the Glasgow University Union on 10 February 2009 Charles kennedy feb 2009.jpg
Charles Kennedy attending a debate at the Glasgow University Union on 10 February 2009

After resigning as party leader, Kennedy remained in office as a backbench MP. His first major political activity was to campaign in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, which the Liberal Democrats went on to win, taking the seat from Labour. [35]

On 22 June 2006, Kennedy made his first appearance in the national media after stepping down as party leader when he appeared on the BBC's Question Time . One of the questions on the show was about his possible return as leader, which he declined to rule out. [36]

On 4 August 2006, he hosted a documentary on Channel 4 about what he saw as the increasing disenchantment felt by voters towards the main parties in British politics because of their hesitation to discuss the big issues, especially at election time, and the ruthless targeting of swing-voters in key constituencies at the expense of the majority. He also contributed an article covering the same issues to The Guardian's Comment Is Free section. [37]

After Campbell resigned as Liberal Democrat leader on 15 October 2007, Kennedy said that it was "highly unlikely" that he would try to return as party leader, but he did not rule it out completely. [38]

Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition

At the 2010 general election, Kennedy was re-elected to parliament with a majority of 13,070. [13] [39]

Kennedy voted against the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition in May 2010, explaining in an article for The Observer that he "did not subscribe to the view that remaining in opposition ourselves, while extending responsible 'Confidence and supply' requirements to a minority Conservative administration, was tantamount to a 'do nothing' response". Finally, Kennedy warned of the risks of "a subsequent assimilation within the Conservative fold", adding: "David Cameron has been here often before: from the early days of his leadership he was happy to describe himself as a 'liberal Conservative'. And we know he dislikes the term Tory. These ongoing efforts at appropriation are going to have to be watched". [40] [41]

The media reported on 21 August 2010 that Kennedy was about to defect from the Liberal Democrats to Labour in protest against his party's role in the coalition government's public spending cuts, but the Liberal Democrats were swift to deny these reports. [42] Kennedy himself denied the rumours in an interview with The Mail on Sunday . [43]

Scottish independence referendum

Kennedy played a role in the cross-party Better Together campaign, which was the pro-union campaign for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. [44] In March 2014, the Sunday Post reported that Kennedy had criticised Labour's strategy in the referendum campaign and said that Better Together needed to consider its legacy. [45]

2015 general election

Kennedy lost his seat at the 2015 general election, amid UK-wide seat losses for the Liberal Democrats and a surge in support for the Scottish National Party. [46]

Rector of University of Glasgow

In February 2008, Kennedy was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow [47] and was officially installed, succeeding Mordechai Vanunu, on 10 April 2008. He won the election with a 46% share of the vote, supported by not only his own Glasgow University Union but also the Queen Margaret Union and Glasgow University Sports Association. He was re-elected in February 2011, defeating one other candidate, the writer A. L. Kennedy, by a clear margin. He served six years as rector until Edward Snowden was elected in February 2014. [48]

Death

Kennedy died on the evening of 1 June 2015 at his home in Fort William at the age of 55; his father had died just six weeks earlier. [49] Kennedy's death was announced in the early hours of the following day. [50] The police described his death as "sudden and non-suspicious". [51] Following a post-mortem his family announced that Kennedy had died of a major haemorrhage linked to his alcoholism. [7]

A funeral mass was held on 12 June at his parish church, St John's Roman Catholic Church, in Caol near Fort William, [52] and his body was buried at his family's cemetery at Clunes. A service of thanksgiving was held at the University of Glasgow on 18 June and it was announced that the university would be fund-raising to name a teaching area in memory of him. [53] A memorial service was held in St George's Cathedral, Southwark, London, on 3 November. [54]

Personal life

In July 2002, Kennedy married Sarah Gurling, the sister of his friend James Gurling. [55] They had a son, Donald, who was born in 2005. On 9 August 2010, it was announced that Kennedy and his wife were to separate, [19] and their divorce was granted on 9 December 2010. [56] [57]

In July 2007, Kennedy was informally spoken to by the British Transport Police after he breached the English smoking ban on a train a few days after it came into force. [58] [59]

Kennedy's father Ian, to whom he was close, died in April 2015; just two months before his son's death. [49] He had been a brewery worker but a lifelong teetotaller. [60] Kennedy had chosen a recording of his father's fiddle playing when he appeared on Desert Island Discs . [61]

Bibliography

Works

Biography

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References

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Ross, Cromarty and Skye

19831997
Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Ross, Skye and Inverness West

19972005
Member of Parliament
for Ross, Skye and Lochaber

20052015
Succeeded by
Ian Blackford
Preceded by
Owen Carron
Baby of the House
1983–1987
Succeeded by
Matthew Taylor
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ian Wrigglesworth
President of the Liberal Democrats
1991–1994
Succeeded by
Robert Maclennan
Preceded by
Paddy Ashdown
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
1999–2006
Succeeded by
Menzies Campbell
Academic offices
Preceded by
Mordechai Vanunu
Rector of the University of Glasgow
2008–2014
Succeeded by
Edward Snowden