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Charles Kennedy – a lovely man, a talented politician, a great friend with a shared enemy

Posted on 2 June 2015 | 7:06am

Charles Kennedy was a lovely man, and a highly talented politician. These are the kind of words that always flow when public figures die, often because people feel they have to say those things, and rightly they are flowing thick and fast today as we mourn an important public figure, and a little bit of hypocrisy from political foes is allowed. But when I say that Charles was a lovely man and a talented politician, I mean it with all my heart.

Having heard the news from a friend of Charles who knew he and I spoke and saw each other regularly, and who had found the body yesterday, I finally got to bed at three o’clock this morning, and was awake before 6, feeling shell-shocked and saddened to the core.

Fair to say that most of my friends in politics are on the Labour side but Charles tops the non-Labour ones. I knew him first as a journalist covering his rapid rise, he becoming Parliament’s youngest MP – and one of the most interesting – aged 23, just as I was starting out as a Mirror journalist. He was one of the few politicians with whom I discussed whether they thought I should accept Tony Blair’s approach to work for him, and ‘on balance, all things considered’ (two of his favourite phrases) he felt I should. Then of course later he became Lib Dem leader, and he would ask me in TB’s heyday, half jest, half despair, ‘how on earth do I land a glove on this man?’; but we became especially friendly in more recent years once we were out of the frontline, meeting often, always away from the Commons, to cast interested and sometimes despairing eyes over our respective parties.

But our shared friendship was also built on a shared enemy, and that is alcohol. That Charles struggled with alcohol is no secret to people in Westminster, or in the Highlands constituency he served so well, for so long, until the SNP tide swept away all but one Scottish Lib Dem at the election last month. Perhaps another day, if his family are happy with this, I will write in more detail about the discussions we had over the past few years, and what it was like for someone in the public eye facing the demon drink. It was a part of who he was, and the life he had; the struggles came and went, and went and came, but the great qualities that made Charles who and what he was were always there.

For some years, my family has spent either Easter, or Christmas and New Year, sometimes both, in Charles’ former constituency and he, his wife Sarah before they split up, and their lovely son Donald would always come over, sometimes to stay. I always think one’s own children’s judgement of friends is a good indicator, and my kids, used to politicians in their lives and often seeing straight through them, saw right into Charles for what he was – clever, funny, giving, flawed. My Mum could listen to him all day. ‘I think you’re marvellous on Question Time,’ she would purr about some programme she had remembered from months earlier. She always took his side when I was trying to persuade him he would be a ‘natural on twitter,’ and he felt it was all a bit silly and new fangled. I helped him set up his twitter account. Fair to say he never quite moved that far from his initial assessment.

Mother and children enjoyed his robustness in braving whatever storms were lashing outside ‘to nip out for a wee bit of fresh air,’ otherwise known as a cigarette. Coming as they do from a maniacally exercising family, they appreciated his studied indifference to all forms of heavy exercise. ‘I’ve never actually been to the top of Ben Nevis,’ he said proudly and to great hilarity of the mountain on our doorstep, which had been on his doorstep all his life. They liked the way he advised on where the next long walk should be, ‘but I’ll probably stay and read a book.’

I think they also appreciated that Charles, such a passionate and eloquent opponent of the war in Iraq, was nonetheless unwilling to join those who when it came to their view of Tony Blair or of me, could never see beyond that issue. Charles knew that it was possible to disagree with people without constantly feeling the need to condemn them as lacking in integrity or values; though he was not averse to making a few cracks about historic events down the road in Glencoe.

Even though we knew it was a lost cause, and that Charles would be a Liberal all his life, Philip Gould and I did have an annual dinner time bash at trying to persuade him that deep down he was Labour, and now you have a son at school in London, how about we get you a nice safe Labour seat? Banter political holidays style. It was never going to happen. He was Lochaber to his bones, and a Liberal to his bones.

We were all a bit worried about him after the election. Indeed, ‘is Charles going to be ok?’ was one of the questions Fiona asked me most often during the campaign, and, on the night the exit poll made it clear his safe seat was gone, ‘is Charles ok?’ became an inquiry of a very different nature. Representing the people of Ross, Skye and Lochaber meant so much to him. Last Christmas was the first time he said to me that he felt it was possible he might lose. But we took comfort from the fact that a year earlier, at the same time, we were worrying that the referendum on independence might be lost. We worked on some ideas together and it was partly at his urging that I spent the last few weeks of the campaign in Scotland when – to his astonishment but to his apparent delight – I got on rather well with Danny Alexander, his neighbouring MP.

To be honest, for all the talk of the SNP tide, I did not believe he would lose his seat. He fought very much as Charles, not the Lib Dems and was hilarious about the efforts he intended to go to in resisting any high profile visits. As I know from the time we spend up there, he was hugely popular, but the combination of the toxicity of the Lib Dem brand and the SNP phenomenon proved too powerful a combination.

Going by the chats and text exchanges before and after his election defeat, he seemed to be taking it all philosophically. Before, he took to sending me the William Hill odds on his survival, and a day before the election I got a text saying ‘Not good. Wm Hill has me 3-1 against, SNP odds on, they’re looking unstoppable.’ Then he added: ‘There is always hope … health remains fine.’ Health remains fine – this was a little private code we had, which meant we were not drinking.

A week later, health still fine, we chatted about the elections, and he did sound pretty accepting of what had happened. Here and now is probably not the place to record all his observations about all the various main players of the various main parties north and south, but he said in some ways he was glad to be out of it. I am not totally sure I believed him, but he had plenty of ideas of how he would spend his time, how we would make a living, and most important how he would continue to contribute to political ideas and political life.

Later he texted me ‘fancy starting a new Scottish left-leaning party? I joke not.’ I suggested – though I confess I was joking – that we hold a ‘coalition summit’ at the place we go on holiday. ‘I am up for that – but who do we invite?’

This was to be the agenda for a catch up later this week when he was hoping to get to my brother’s farewell do from Glasgow University, where Charles had been the University Rector for six years, and my brother Donald has been the official University Piper for a lot longer. Charles tried to get me to run for the Rectorship after him – in addition to my brother’s role, my Dad was a Glasgow University vet school graduate – before I gently suggested that with the students voting, this was perhaps one place where his stance on Iraq may have been more helpful to such a campaign than mine.

His kindness to my brother, who has had health struggles of his own, and who Charles met many times at official functions and the like, was another big positive about him in the Campbell household. And I hope his son Donald won’t mind me revealing to the world that as a small boy he loved the bagpipes, and Charles and Sarah had to endure long car journeys with young Donald insisting on playing again and again a CD of my brother Donald’s best solo piping, and I had to play the same tunes on my own pipes once he arrived.

I think of all the memories, that is how and where I will remember Charles, with Sarah and Donald up in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, enjoying each other’s company, enjoying ours as we enjoyed theirs, and being able to talk one minute the future of Europe or the Union, the next where to find the best fish or live local music.

He was great company, sober or drinking. He had a fine political mind and a real commitment to public service. He was not bitter about his ousting as leader and nor, though he disagreed often with what his Party did in coalition with the Tories, did he ever wander down the rentaquote oppositionitis route. He was a man of real talent and real principle.

Despite the occasional blip when the drink interfered, he was a terrific communicator and a fine orator. He spoke fluent human, because he had humanity in every vein and every cell. Above all, he was a doting Dad of his son, whose loss is going to be greater than for any of us, and who will be reminded of his father every time he looks in the mirror and sees his red hair and cheeky smile coming back. And he was a very good friend. I just wish that we, his friends, had been able to help him more, and that he was still with us today, adding a bit of light to an increasingly gloomy political landscape.




  • gordon

    What a lovely honest blog. Charles will be missed by one and all. The wittiest highlander and most humane soul. Sadly he is gone but I can safely say I will never forget him.

  • Mandy Webster

    A beautiful tribute Alastair. So sad for his family and his friends, of whom it would appear, you were a very good one. RIP Charles .

  • Arcturis

    Thank you. He will be an enormous loss for the reasonable centre of British politics. But its most terrible for those closest to him . My sympathies and condolences.

  • Nic Outterside

    During my years in newspaper journalism Charles was the loveliest MP I ever met. My last conversation with him was a few years back, but his final words still echo: “Get down to London and share a few beers”. The warmth of your words Alastair run deep.

  • Graham Little

    Very sad to hear the news of Charles Kennedy passing. It really makes you think about what is important in life and what is not.

  • mark young

    As a 50 year old political sceptic I always had much time for Charles Kennedy however. Warm,funny, insightful, honest and human. Your comments about this rather special man and politician have made me comment for the first time on line about anything. Much saddened by his passing and touched by your reflections about your friend. A sad day for many, he will be missed greatly.

  • Marion Haste

    Honest and touching. Thanks.

  • peter antenen

    lovely, rounded retrospective, giving counterpoint and context to somewhat lightweight media coverage elsewhere this morning; thanks, didn’t know you we’re close friends, so guessing difficult for you to write?

  • Dean Garnham

    Great blog. We have lost a great and honest politician (not many of those around these days), not to mention a lovely human being. Enjoy the rest Charles 🙁

  • Seumas McCoo

    Thank you Alastair, honest and such a ring of truth and compassion

  • Russell Child

    A lovely, generous and warm tribute to a man who deserved at least as much. I shall miss him enormously. Politics, and society in general, need more people like Charles Kennedy. I’m a lifelong Labour voter but often found myself in agreement with him, not least because of his incredibly brave stand on the Iraq war. This will be a terrible time for his friends and family but I hope they can take some comfort from the warmth of tributes such as the one above.

  • Billyh123

    Wonderful notes on a wonderful man. Thank you.

  • Mark Harper

    sat in my office in Hong Kong crying and getting strange looks from my colleagues as I read this. A beautiful and honest blog about a beautiful soul. Sadly his ilk seems absent from today’s politics, Westminster and the world is a worse place with his absence.

  • John MacPherson

    This is a lovely and fitting tribute to Charlie.

    I knew the family well and worked with his big brother, who for a spell taught me to play drums in the family home. I was an awful, really terrible drummer, and Charlie, in his bedroom next door studying hard, admonished us on several occasions and requested some peace to get on with his studies.

    My impact on the drums made a lot of noise then, and nothing much since. Charlie was quiet then, but his impact on the world of politics and highland life has reverberated loudly and will continue to echo for a long long time.

    A sad loss.

  • Moira Trezise

    Among the many epitaphs over the coming days, I doubt any will match this for warmth and genuine affection. Deeply moving

  • Niall Rowantree

    Thank you for this wonderful, heartfelt tribute Alastair. I got to know Charles when I ran his first campaign for rector at Glasgow. During that time I learned that his private persona matched his public one. Generous, thoughtful, funny – I mean really funny – passionate about his beliefs and not a great fan of structure or punctuality! Some of his anecdotes were wonderful. As a fellow Highlander, a personal favourite was a story from the campaign trail, of course it loses much without him telling it, but this is as close to his rendition as I can remember…

    Before they built the bridge to Skye he would often take the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale. He and his trusty band of campaigners were crossing one day, surrounded by campaign paraphernalia; placards, posters, leaflets, all plastered with C KENNEDY. From the other side of the boat a cry went up, “Where’s Kennedy? Where is he? Let me see Kennedy!” The team parted, keen for Charles to meet this enthusiastic constituent. The gentleman, a little worse for wear parked himself a couple of inches in front of Charles. “Well? Where’s Kennedy? Charles – ever eager to please replied, “That would be me sir, Charles Kennedy, and I do hope I can count on your vote at the election”. “Election?” came the frustrated reply, “Ach, Jesus Christ, I thought I was finally going to get to meet Calum Kennedy”

    During the Rectorial campaign I saw what it means to be a public servant. Charles came alive, he thrived, when he was meeting new people, speaking with them, sharing ideas with them. For him, campaigning was invigorating and life-affirming. He would frequently comment how inspirational he found it working and campaigning with young people – and you knew it wasn’t lip service.

    Charles supported me personally as a referee on my CV, with a ready explanation for employers of the virtues of the ‘scenic route’ to a degree, via student politics and debating.

    I’m so sad he’s dead and I feel for Sarah and his lovely son Donald.

  • dewi jones

    A moving tribute. Thank you.

  • Milo Mindbender

    A lovely tribute and genuinely touching.

  • David Findlay

    That’s a lovely heartfelt tribute Alastair. I didn’t vote in Scotland at the election through living elsewhere, but as an SNP supporter I’m reading your tribute with tears in my eyes. A lovely lovely man has gone and we are all the poorer

  • Graham Kerr

    Great stuff. We should all have someone who writes so well of us when we go.

  • Galen1

    Excellent tribute from someone who knew him for what he was, a politician for sure but fundamentally a terrific human being with all the human frailties we can find on ourselves.

  • Alex

    Thank you for this.
    My regret is that the politicians who now wax lyrical about Charles Kennedy have not and do not follow his example. It seem telling that he resisted attempts to recruit him to one of the two great party factions that have dominated British political life.

  • baronesssamedi

    Tears were flowing as I read. My condolences

  • brockbabe

    What a lovely tribute to a man who always seemed clever, kind and funny.

  • Alan Ferguson

    Very nice article, and interesting too. Did Charles really want to start a new left wing party? Could he be referring to supporting the Scottish Left Project?

  • Alan

    A fitting tribute to one of the few politicians who seemed genuinely to care about doing the best for all people. It is apt that everyone, regardless of their political standpoint shares the same opinion of Charles. RIP

  • Anon

    An incredibly warm, generous & heartfelt tribute. Thank you. I lost a very good friend to alcoholism a few weeks ago, and it is a terrible illness which needs to be addressed with less mockery, sniggering & stigma. Thank you for your very honest writing on this subject, and for the work you do for both Alcohol Concern and Time to Change.

  • A fascinating and lovely tribute. Thank you. One radio 5 this morning someone texted in about Charles saving them when suicidal.

  • gavin kilty

    Wonderful blog Alastair. Good to be reminded of the humanity that still exists, although hidden, behind the great wall of politics.

  • Annie Grace

    Thank you for your blog. I grew up with Charles, and will always remember him fondly. I remember my Mum asking a 17 year old Charles in our kitchen what his career plans were, and he answered “I want to be prime minister” The political landscape would be a vastly different place if that had happened. He would have governed with that very human and down-to earth attitude. He was a rare gem amongst his peers, and I’m sorry for your loss of a good friend.

  • James Fox

    A great read Alasdair – genuinely sad about his passing. He was the first person I did media with when I was still at school, before embarking on a career in comms. Helpful, funny & understanding.

  • Arden Forester

    A very lovely and honest tribute.

  • Chris Edmondson

    Wonderful – respect to both Charles and Alastair – the one will be much missed and the other is much underrated – i speak as a life long conservative!

  • ASocialFlutterby

    A very moving eulogy. I am so sorry you have lost such a friend, and my thoughts are with all those who knew and loved him.

  • Heartfelt tribute. So sorry for your loss – clearly your friendship with CK was deeply important to you and your family. RIP – he will not be forgotten.

  • braison

    I never met Charles Kennedy but I have to say I found your blog quite moving. Well written.

  • denTarthurdent

    Charles Kennedy has managed the impossible; he’s made me warm to Alastair Campbell! Seriously, though; a massive loss and a real tragedy.

  • Anne Burns

    Thank you for such a moving tribute, written from the heart about a very good man who will be missed by many.

  • Liz Kershaw

    thank you Alastair for a loving and candid tribute to a great man and friend. One day please do speak out about the hypocracy we have seen today from certain grandees. The truth should be told. But meanwhile thanks for your loyalty discretion. And above all love.

  • Lovely post Alastair. Thanks for putting your heart into sharing this. It’s horrible to think how much fortitude people in the pubic have to display. Underneath, we’re all just fleshy humans trying to do our best.

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  • teresa

    Warmly human, humane tribute.

  • Maltus

    A wonderful man great tribute, above all he listened

  • Rachel

    That was a really lovely tribute. I am sorry for your loss.

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  • Bernie Howley

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful thoughts and reflections. My sympathy is with his son but I feel your loss too, Alastair Cambell.

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  • Mark Cooper

    Thank you for saying so eloquently what we would all like to say about Charles Kennedy – ‘he spoke fluent human’ – nothing more need be said.

  • kaymanisle

    Great blog post, Alastair.

  • Dominique Simpson

    This is the first time I have read your blog and I am so glad I have. A beautifully written piece by someone who clearly cares. How to be so eloquent in the face of true sadness is an example to us all.

  • Cadiva

    A heartfelt tribute to a man who will be a great loss not only to his family and friends but to Britain as a whole.

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  • James Moore

    Thank you for a wonderfully honest and heartfelt tribute Alastair. Charles was a thoroughly genuine, warm and decent man – and, let’s not forget, the most successful Liberal leader since Lloyd George. We are all poorer today. RIP Charles.

  • Lucy

    Thank you for sharing your memories of him. May he rest in peace.

  • benedekemma

    2.6.15. Not the facts.. The Liberal Party was warned and warned about the inept Mental Health system for yrs. Also warned was Cameron and 1000s others. Clegg and Lamb and the BBC together with the charities funded by Lottery were pursuing a plan to hand the mental health system over to the police in order to protect the NHS from the effects of the failed uk mental health system.They were helped by the press. We blocked the initiative and then began to get violent police attacks. Hunt never replied to the sending of serious evidence. The Coroner system is now in the frame and no replies from chief coroner at Strand Law Courts.The Liberal Party HQ and their members have,within the last month been deleting our evidence which was sent to them. Five MEPs were sent info and four did not reply. The fifth Liberal Party MEP Bearder has put ‘security’ locks on her Brussels site. We are now going to expose this in Scotland. The SNP MP Black and others have not replied. Implicated are 1000s..

    1.6.15.A Force to Be Reckoned With. Advanced Psychotherapists For Victims (and others) Resolution Of NHS Police. Councils. Charity Damage And Imprinting.De-traumatisation. Other More Intutive Tactics. An Interesting Idea Re Cancer Issues. a New Political Org Thats Not a Party Which Will Dig This Country Out Of The Hole That Its Going Down. Protection From Police And Legal System Abuse. Non Invasive Personality Insight. Advisor Katalin Benedek Dr (law). London. Hants. Budapest.

    Part of the exposure of a lawyer (LAMB) Liberal Party from North Walsham and his police commissioner friend at Wymondham Norfolk Uk. who tried misleading the public with the assistance of the police. BBC.LBC Radio Clegg. several charities and religions.Huge funding by Heritage Lottery.(NO REPLIES) and of course Because of the sudden aiir crash due to psychological troubles of the pilot this evidence now becomes a factor in Europe because it addresses the corruptuion going on throughout the Mental health system Info was sent to Euro Mp Elles whose name is on camerons constituency Witney office list. Elles at Brussels was twice asked for a reply which failed to materialize. Also info was taken to the Euro Parliament Office in Cent London and they sent us to the Home Office who would not come down the stairs.Be aware that 4-5000 people have died over period thirty yrs and now 250 die in France. This mission started when we were sent clients by NHS labeled as incurable. They have recd up to 20 yrs drugging and some were near to death. No one needed more than 7 hour tactics that work. After a while we were told to stop all work because we were affecting incomes in NHS. Charities. Bupa etc and the chambers of trade organised by councils because they need victims as cheap labour. We refused to stop because by then we were serving the private system.We then began to get police attacks and funeral services sent round. We then investigated Politics. Law. Courts. Councils Coroners.<ondon mayor. BBC. CH4. The evidence 1000PP. BBC said – 'Hide Evidence Abroad'. Cameron and his govt warned together with his Witney constituency (No Replies) Why are these boxes too small as if we did not know why.

  • benedekemma

    2.6.15. Not the facts.. The Liberal Party was warned and warned about the inept Mental Health system for yrs. Also warned was Cameron and 1000s others. Clegg and Lamb and the BBC together with the charities funded by Lottery were pursuing a plan to hand the mental health system over to the police in order to protect the NHS from the effects of the failed uk mental health system. We blocked the initiative and then began to get violent police attacks. Hunt never replied to the sending of serious evidence. The Coroner system is now in the frame and no replies from chief coroner at Strand Law Courts.The Liberal Party HQ and their members have,within the last month been deleting our evidence which was sent to them. Five MEPs were sent info and four did not reply. The fifth Liberal Party MEP Bearder has put ‘security’ locks on her Brussels site. We are now going to expose this in Scotland. The SNP MP Black and others have not replied. Implicated are 1000s.

  • AyeUp

    Incredibly thought provoking, poignant and moving.

  • janice mcginlay

    What a wonderful tribute Alistair,I’m very sure he valued your friendship too.
    RIP Charles Kennedy.

  • Patrick Powell

    I’m always very heartened when friendship and real respect transcends party political boundaries, and I understand it does so rather more often than we, the public, realise.

  • Bernadette

    A lovely, heartfelt tribute. Thank you.

  • Peter Aitchison

    very moving, very poignant and very true. A friend to all who knew him. A loss to the nation

  • jdale

    That’s got to be the best tribute out there to someone who clearly was a very fine, if flawed, man. Truly from the heart and a wonderful insight into the life of a truly ‘human’ politician.

  • g978

    Great tribute. I hope the SNP keep quiet, they have a lot to answer for.

  • Andrew Murray

    A genuine and sincere tribute, Alastair. One well befitting Charles Kennedy. You are a true warrior in the campaign for more openness around mental health issues especially for the men in our society. Long may you continue the fight.

  • Michael Paul Smith

    I am devastated and I never knew the man. Now, too late, I wish I’d made the effort to do so. Hearing the tributes today, these are no routine accolades – from left and right they come and straight from the heart.

    You put it all so well, Alastair. We have lost a man of true greatness today.

  • Ehtch

    What happened? Hate this sort of thing being made into a soap opera by the media, voyeuristically. Come out with, straight.

  • Scott Watson

    A great tribute to Charles K Alastair. I like many others, will miss his appearances on Question Time where he always entertained and came across as an honest, down to earth bloke.

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  • Nick

    So lovely to see such an honest accurate and personal tribute to a really good man and honest politician. I wish I had known him better.

  • Bellamac

    I’m glad that I voted for him – my mother met him a few times in Skye and we are sad today at his passing.

  • benedekemma

    2.6.15. Campbell is either not telling the truth or is out of touch with reality. Huge amounts evidence were sent to Blair and was ignored probably because a man on drugs does not relish the idea of having the cause resolved rather that symptom resolution. Huge cases of evidence were taken to Lab Party HQ and there we were told that they did not give a damn about the public so we left and went to a local Lab MPs office. As soon as we started to tell him where we had just been the MP and his ‘assistant’ turned and faced the wall with their backs to us. We could not get any dialogue from them. On the way out a pensioner blocked the exit and with clenched fists waving in our faces he said ‘I Heared What You Told This Mp. He Is a Lovely Man Who Helps Me With My TV Licence So You Are Telling Packs Lies’..We pushed him out the way and walking along the street our heads were spinning with total dis belief at what we had found. Little did we know it was only the start.

  • Cherry Haydon

    Well said Alastair Campbell ………. well said. Joey Jones spoke about your words on Sky News this a.m. and said that they were the best, the most appropriate to the man, to Charles Kennedy……… and he was spot on. Thank you for sharing them ………….

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  • Erlend Watson

    That is a lovely and illuminating piece Alistair. And I say that as a badly partisan Lib Dem. Charles was a real human being with the virtues and faults to which humanity is prone. I will miss him both as a political hero and as a person.

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  • Jonathan

    Thanks for this heartfelt tribute. The media were always very harsh on him though I suspect he was probably even harsher on himself. At some level it is difficult to reconcile his sense of humour with his addiction. On another level perhaps it isn’t.

    A huge loss to British politics and an even larger void left behind.

  • What a beautiful, honest, heartfelt blog post. I’m sure his family will be deeply touched.

  • Kim Bartley

    Who is there like him today in government? Someone who actually spoke from his heart and had passion? No one ! They all sing from the same sin sheet.

  • I learnt more about both men reading this thoughtfully worded blog. 🙂

  • Delores William


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  • pensgirl92

    A beautiful, beautiful tribute. If we had more politicians AND humans like Charles Kennedy, the world would be a better place.

  • Many will mention the drink, but I rather believe he had too much humanity for his soul not to break apart on the rocks of severity to come.

  • Hz

    A lovely tribute. One of the few politicians we knew was there to serve his country not himself. We’ll all miss his decency, insight, common sense and humanity.

  • Isobel Macrae-Wilson

    was indeed a lovely man, who like the rest of had his “four boils” [foibles], a great and honest tribute Alastair, it was human and emotional. My very best to his boy, like him I too lost my Dad at a ridculously early age, but what an amzing legacy he has.

  • Claire Noelle Holmes

    I just can’t stop crying. I can’t accept he is dead. Charles was such a magical man. his death is so utterly dreadful.

  • Diana Parkinson

    A beautiful tribute to a good and honest man.

  • Lyndieloo

    What a heartfelt tribute. Charles Kennedy always seemed to me to be able to to apply a logical argument to the most emotive of issues. A rare skill indeed. A true conviction politician, the country will be a less principled place without him. My sympathies to his family and friends.

  • This is a beautifully written, touching tribute.

  • Celtic New

    What a fine tribute Alastair. He died too young.

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  • Paul Snape

    A wonderful eulogy, many thanks for writing that Alastair.

  • Sara_TMS_again

    Thanks for this evocative blog. Really sad news.

  • Sharon Murray green

    A wonderful heartfelt and humanist tribute to what I believe to be, a good man.

  • I recently saw a clip of Charles Kennedy on Question Time, and the way he cut through all the jargon with his wit and warmth was so refreshing, and more importantly, human. He was exactly the kind of political voice that our country’s politics needed. God bless you Charles, and may you rest in peace.

  • Billy Macmillan

    Very sad news and a lovely obit from Alastair. I’m the same age and drink too much myself… Charles will be sadly missed.

  • Alison Farmer

    another good man taken by the awful disease of alcoholism,much to young to leave us.

  • Pete Legowski

    Warm, poignant reflection – a pleasure to read. Thank you.

  • Ian

    A really heartfelt tribute to a funny and thoroughly decent man

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  • cirsty campbell

    Thank you Alasdair for pointing out on Channel 4 news tonight that alcoholism is an illness. I just wanted to scream at all these people who kept referring to 2Charles’ demons”. If nothing else, I hope that Charles’s untimely death will now make people realise that alcoholism is indeed an illness and allow those who are suffering to be treated with dignity and compassion.

    • Hi Cirsty, I personally agree with you but sadly so many in society do not. For many, alcoholism is a moral issue and alcoholics are “just weak willed individuals”. Even though the W.H.O. recognise the disease there are many medical professionals who see things differently. I live mostly in a country where the culture definitely does not favour the disease concept – i.e. KUWAIT. If you would like to know more you can find out on this web site Kind regards…..Doug

  • addickted2hcharlton

    Iss all very sad, the Lib Dems best ever leader withahrt a doubt. Juss look ow the orange bookers n their ilk destroyed is party n legacy, there’s only one Charles n no one else will ever come close.

  • Teenie Fae Leith

    oh Alastair what a lovely quote…. ‘ he (Charles) spoke fluent human’ one can’t say better than that. x

    • Michele

      It’s one that was used in a couple of the HoC eulogies yesterday 🙂

    • Koby Gould

      That was the phrase which jumped out at me, too!

  • Mary Glen

    Thank you, I always wish people heard what we hear before they pass away. A sad loss to all.

  • gloskeith

    A wonderful tribute, Alastair.

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  • Beryl Oldroyd

    You were clearly a good supportive friend to Charles, and although he never quite fully overcame his problem you were there to give him the support he needed. He was a lovely, genuine man who had a gut feeling for what was right. I just hope that he felt life was good for him most of the time. RIP

  • Charles Milnes

    Alistair Campbell
    Your angle and attitude has often grated, but to me, this shows generosity, kindness and a form of expression which has changed this. Good on you.
    Charles Milnes

  • Greet

    An uncommonly human politician

  • Wallace

    A graceful and genuinely moving tribute. Charles Kennedy was without doubt one of the good guys.

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  • Drew

    Well, I didn’t know of the friendship between Alistair Campbell and Charlie Kennedy but I will admit I’m surprised – very different styles, personalities and principles. His successes as LibDem leader were greatly undervalued and his legacy thrown away by far lesser lights like Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg. His principled stance on the Iraq War was built on his principled stance against the social authoritarianism and neo-liberal economics of the Blair Government, and it was his finest hour as a politician. Deep condolences to his friends and family, in particular his young son.

  • Sandy Matheson

    Thank you for this heartfelt blog. It is a tribute to both of you that you maintained your friendship despite your diametrically opposed views on Iraq. His loss must be hard to bear for his family and friends. Take care of yourself.

  • Hugh Jampton

    Thank you Alistair. It’s nice to read such a personal account of Charles Kennedy. I didn’t know him and I’m not a Scot or a Lib Dem but I was saddened to hear of the passing of a genuinely decent man. (Apologies for the childish name, I hope it would have made him laugh)

    • Michele

      It depends what an ampton is !

  • Michele

    I can’t believe he’s died, things are so bloody unreliable.
    Why did he have to sodding well die because of drink – if he did (which is likely but we don’t yet know is 100%).
    If he did we can only be thankful AC got pulled back from that brink 🙁
    RIP lovely Mr Kennedy (who was always so much more true than other libdems and endured so much because of that).

    PS: To AC – stop sharing or else!

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  • Jamie Stevenson

    Alastair Campbell, you have just swept away my adult lifetime’s suspicion and cynicism about you. I take it all back. What a brilliant and truly moving blog which says beautifully everything that I feel sure I would have wanted to say about Charles Kennedy if I had ever met him and known him as you did. So uplifting to hear in a clearly sincere voice that the real man himself was everything (and more) that he seemed to be in his public and media appearances. And you have got to be not such a bad chap at all if you had such a close friendship with him.

  • Prashant Bohra

    Beautifully written. He was a huge figure for this country politically. However, today, my thoughts are with you and all those who knew and loved him personally.

  • Sarah Sutherland

    A heartfelt and moving tribute of the man himself. Thank you Alastair

  • reaguns

    A great read. Didn’t even know Alastair and Charles were mates.

    Billy Connolly once said “If you wouldn’t have a pint with them in a pub, then don’t effing vote for them.”

    Charles always seemed like a guy you could have a pint with as if you knew him all your life, even if you’d never met him.

    Even though my politics are miles from his, I could have voted for him, such was his character.

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  • Rhod_Sharp

    Thank you for this, Alistair. My mother, a convicted highland liberal, is much affected by the news. I don’t know why, she said this morning, but I just thought of him as a friend. He had that effect on all of us, and you put it wonderfully well.

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  • Kevin Gibbons

    Read and re-read this touching tribute to a man gone too soon RIP Charles Kennedy

  • Mark preskey

    Alistair you wrote beautifully about a lovely man. Now transcended I hope he finds true peace.

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  • sebastian

    What a wonderful blog about a man who will be missed for many reasons.

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  • Alastair. You have earned my respect. This is a very pure and compassionate tribute to a fine fellow. Although I didn’t know Charles Kennedy personally, I saw him a number of times in my home town of Inverness. I liked his solid principles on many issues confronting our society. He got my vote, not for his party but for the man. He will be missed and if he had a little issue with John Barleycorn – so what? He was a man who did something with his life. He will be missed. Now let us respect the wishes of his family and let them grieve in private.

  • Antje

    Beautifully written – you can feel your love for him through your words.

  • A lovely tribute which I’ve seen shared in so many places. Take care of yourself.

  • Tricia Woodhouse

    This has me in tears…such a sad sad loss..of a dediicated and humerous gentle man, although I did not know him personally….and what a beautiful tribute, from a beautiful friend……why is life so difficult ..RIP Mr Charles Kennedy xxx

  • Karen Mayhew

    I was so moved by your tribute to Charles Kennedy. It was obviously written straight from the heart by a true friend who shared and understood his problems.

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  • aislig

    Thank you so much for writing this, and publishing it. He was one of the finest politicians of the age, but also the epitome of what the SDP originally stood for.
    Once the oh-so-richly-deserved eulogies have ended, perhaps the greatest tribute we could pay Charles would be to launch that left-of-centre party in Scotland to oppose the centralising agenda, and the threat of the one-party state, presented by the SNP.

  • Eddie Hyland

    I only ever saw the public face of Charles Kennedy and that, pace Question Time, was never less than impressive. Thanks to AC for showing the equally impressive private man. See also Ian Bell in today’s Herald. As Donne has it, we are all diminished. So sad.

  • Iain C Smith

    A fine tribute to a fine man. Thank you for your eloquent words, Alistair.

  • Stephen Fox

    One of the best and most honest politicians in my lifetime. A great tribute to a truly talented, witty and generous man. He will be sorely missed.

  • Ronnie MacLellan

    Thanks for these kind words Mr Campbell; it’s clear that you knew Charles well and will miss him a lot. It’s tragic that he died long before his time, Charles deserved a long active retirement. When he spoke, he spoke with eloquence, intelligence, wit, integrity and without pretensions. He was indeed a fine man.

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  • tomwest

    Thank-you for sharing this with us.

  • Michele

    Well done to all the politicians whose eulogies were fitted in to TV schedules today (and am sure those whose didn’t were just as feeling).

  • Richard Carroll

    Dear Mr Campbell, as a member of the ‘how’s your health club’, I hope you know there is nothing you could have done to prevent the untimely death of this lovely man. I was moved by your words about him, and glad (even as a total stranger) that he had such loving friends. Perhaps it was his hatred of exercise that took him, or the smoking, or the booze. Does it matter? Nobody could have prevented it, even a close friend like you. It’s a c*** of a disease, and if that’s what took him before his time, then I hate it even more. I was sober yesterday, and I am today. I’m sending a card to his family, c/o simply, Charles Kennedy,Westminster. God Bless, Richard Carroll.

  • mike murphy

    Nice one Alastair. I hope that you’re holding up as well as is possible.

  • Mark P

    As a die hard Tory I never agreed with your views. This piece has changed my view of you! CK passing is so sad, he always came across as a man of the people & a gifted/honest politician. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend – my thoughts are with you & your family.

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  • Claire Noelle Holmes

    Alastair your tribute to your friend Charles is so touching and loving. How fortunate that you and your family shared years of his friendship. I am truly sorry about your loss. He was a good man. Your writing about his son looking into the mirror and seeing his father, touched me deeply.

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  • Chris Cava

    That is a really moving tribute, you have done him justice he was the best of all of us. My condolences…

  • Laura Love

    Enjoyed that Mr. Campbell. In writing about Charles Kennedy’s humanity you appear to have unearthed some of your own. Very moving.

    • Michele

      Wow, time and place eh petal?

      • Laura Love

        Perfectly valid comment by me Michele. I can’t let the death of the wonderful Charles Kennedy alter or soften my own personal opinions about AC. That would be hypocritical and one thing that Charles Kennedy was not, was a hypocrite. I was merely pointing out that it took a tragic event like this to reveal AC’s softer and more humane side. Shoot me, petal.

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  • Thank you so much for this Alistair, beautiful blog worthy of someone who always seemed to be a thoroughly decent human being. And it takes a thoroughly decent human being and a good friend to write such a personal, heartwarming tribute. Thanks for your stand on alcohol and alcoholism and mental health too, it means a great deal to a lot of people.

  • Jennie

    Lovely words and a great tribute. Only knew the public face of Charles Kennedy and liked what I saw. Your words give substance to the public persona and seem to corroborate that he was truly an example of what you see is what you get. So refreshing especially for this era where politicians have lost the regard they once had. Thanks

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  • Isabella McC

    Brilliant tribute Alastair to a brilliant man. It is heart breaking to know that his wise voice won’t be around as we face these future struggles. It is not hyperbole to say that the future of the British Union and Britain in the EU are in more doubt without Charles Kennedy around. Though I’m Labour, I along with many others saw him as ‘the someone’ who could be a figurehead for the fight to keep both unions. We’re devastated he isn’t here to fulfil his potential. God love him and his family.
    Also Glasgow Uni won’t be the same without him.

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  • Jeff Richards

    P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

    I’ve admired your diaries, wit, pithy demeanour and of course your part in New Labour for many a year.

    But its taken your moving eulogy for Charles Kennedy for me to seek out your blog, sign-up and post this thanks for writing about him, a flawed, honest, lovely man of politics. I can not recall an outpouring of such public and heart-felt grief since John Smith’s untimely death in ’94.

    Need I draw parallels of a Scottish MP, dead in his 50s, a party-leader of clear insight and integrity, with an uncommon ability to speak
    to everyone? Of course not; even to those of polar-opposite political views.

    Thank you for sharing your grief and insights.

  • Michelle

    what a beautiful tribute. RIP Charles may you find peace now.
    For your family & great friend Alastair ‘The will of God will never take you where the comfort of God can not dry your tears’

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  • Annwen

    So hope you take up the challenge of putting this alcohol problem right into the public eye. Did Mr Kennedy use it to hide his shyness as a young man? Finding the reasons is so important. The trouble is nothing will bring your friend and our potential elder statesman back. Let’s hope we will all be much braver and bolder in the future when we recognize these problems in others. Let’s all do more to help and support people with problems.. RIP Charles Kennedy

  • Mike F

    Thanks for writing this.

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  • Mark Wright

    Charles Kennedy was loved. I hope even in his darkest moments he realised this.

  • Stephen Mclean

    I have been meaning to read this all week and I’m glad I didn’t read it sooner. With a busy work schedule I’ve tried to keep up to date with current affairs so much so I watched the commons tribute on lunch at my desk.

    This Sunday afternoon was a perfect time to read this heartfelt tribute to a man who I’ve always admired and instinctively thought of as good man. Today I had the chance to give it careful care and attention.

    I wish that I could be a bit more like Charles Kennedy.

    Thank you Alastair for this and RIP Charles.

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  • Chris Savory

    A great blog and a splendid article in today’s Sunday Times. Charles Kennedy rightly saw the danger of Coalition to his party as did a few others. What makes your article so poignant is the very real sense that this early demise could also have been your own fate. It is a great credit to you that you have have written such a human tribute to a great Liberal Democrat.

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  • Philippe Daniel Bassett

    Hi Alastair. A wonderful blog.
    Had my own struggles (four seizures in the last three years!), Just recovering
    with the help of (long suffering)friends & family.

    Saw your interview with Kay just now and particularly identified with the
    “man on the train” story. I think I’ve finally come to terms with
    being an alcoholic, not least with the help of the wonderful psychologist
    Madeleine Clarke and your writings and by being honest with everyone that needs
    to know. I was having a session with her the day Charles Kennedy died and at my
    age of 57, it was, as she said, “a hell of a wake-up call”).
    Bizarrely the pub in Chelsea near Madeleine’s house is where George Best drank
    himself into oblivion…

    Seems a big problem for soaks like me is easy retail access to cheap booze and
    an uncanny ability to hide bottles. Not helped by a French upbringing, a son
    who is a major supermarket wine buyer in France and a daughter who runs a
    restaurant, also in France! And I had an early career in advertising, then
    television, which, like politics, are hardly jobs conducive to being
    “dry”. The BBC TV Centre bar was much like those at Westminster where
    I spent a few sessions with a cousin (by marriage) who sat in the Lords. My
    mother’s breakfast in bed was whisky and that was her lubrication all day until
    11.00 pm. None of which are excuses but explain the exposure and ease of

    An issue that keeps cropping up with some I have spoken to is the absolute need
    to be properly occupied in recovery and beyond, having a full schedule for the
    day including “quiet” time. So among my other bits of work I’m
    volunteering to assist in my local A&E – I know it well as a patient and
    filmed a documentary in one for nearly three years so I’ve kind of it seen
    things from both sides. Hoping to be useful.

    Re-reading your diaries alongside the bizarre juxtaposition of Richard Burton’s

    You are truly an inspiration and your imploring to people to recognise and face
    the liquid demons is invaluable.

    Sorry this is a bit long but just wanted to “connect”.

    All the best.


  • VisitFortWilliam

    I recollect when Charles was invited to open the new CAB offices in Fort William. After the official opening he was invited back to the home of a member of the CAB committee and was promptly given handed a large “dram” in the middle of the afternoon ! Hardly surprising Charles had a problem when “you’ll take a dram?” is common courtesy in the Highlands. If Charles’ personal secretary had been one step ahead and briefed everyone before he attended official openings to explain that Mr Kennedy was on official business and “at work” whilst attending openings et al, he might have been less pressured or “obligated” to join in “just to be social” as they say here… and how many times did that happen to him over three decades ?
    One of the reasons I support the SNP is they alone are trying to do something to change the relationship with alcohol people here is Scotland have. Its too cheap in real terms, its too readily available in too many off licensed “grocers” and in too many petrol stations. Supermarkets rely on it to generate their profits yet pay too little to repair the social damage. The Scottish Government’s attempt to make a minimum cost per unit of alcohol is the first step in the ladder to a new relationship with alcohol. But the Prime Minister won’t support it cos the industry lobby is too strong, despite England being the only place in the EU where so many young people regularly abandon their self respect and are seen legless in many towns and cities every weekend at the expense of the Police and countless A&E departments of our hospitals.
    I spoke at length with Charles leading up to the Scottish Referendum in July 2014. We chatted about how if he was involved in Scottish politics he might have had a significant impact in the way Scotland must change radically for a better future – including its relationship with alcohol.
    Charles’ passing is a tragedy and in a better, more reflective society would have been totally avoided. Fort William, Scotland and his political friends and allies across the UK have lost someone very special indeed.

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  • Koby Gould

    Wow! From the heart and I’m sure that Charles knew how you felt about him and that you added quality to his life, especially when he needed it.

  • Michael Zerk

    Thank you for this article. I am not familiar with Charles and have only a little knowledge of you, but I can appreciate what you have written here. This piece was published in The Australian and I am glad to have read it. Thanks again.

  • G. Ensor

    When I saw the headline of your article in the Sunday Times, my first thought was ‘ Oh no, someone else jumping on the bandwagon of commenting on Charles Kennedy’s sad demise. But after reading it, I can see that you were a true friend with his best interests at heart. You provided a very thoughtful and moving account not just of Charles Kennedy but also of the nature of alcoholism. Thank you.

  • Helen S

    My thanks to you for these words. As someone who did not know, had not met, nor to my shame, knew much about Charles Kennedy, I was unprepared for the inexplicable sense of loss on hearing the news of his death. In an attempt to understand, the more I have read by and about him, the more profound the sadness. The immense achievements and intellectual and political prowess coupled with a seemingly boundless capacity for kindness, generosity, humility and humour, show the measure of this special man. I have wept the wider failure to recognise and appreciate him and what he offered, at the untimely, tragic, lonely end and the injustice and cruelty dealt in return from those of lesser measure, who used his vulnerability to justify their actions. What “flaw” of theirs, I wonder, is their excuse? Will we listen now? Will we have learnt any better? They have trodden carelessly and trampled on the dreams of a fine soul and the world feels greatly diminished by his loss. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and loved ones, for whom this loss must be the most keenly felt.

  • Helen

    So very saddened by this news. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and treasured memories; this is a beautiful and loving tribute. My thoughts and condolences to you, and all Mr Kennedy’s friends and loved ones, on the loss of so bright and special a soul.

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  • Juliet Peters

    IN THE BIBLE ‘PROVERBS 23 v 29-30’ – Show me someone who drinks 2 much, who has 2 try out some new drink and I will show u someone miserable and sorry 4 himself, always causing trouble and always complaining. His eyes r bloodshot and he has bruises that could have been avoided!

  • Juliet Peters

    IN THE BIBLE ‘PROVERBS 23 v 20-21’ – Don’t associate with people who drink 2 much wine or stuff themselves with food. Drunkards and gluttons will b reduced 2 poverty. if all u do is eat and sleep, u will b wearing rags!

  • Juliet Peters

    IN THE BIBLE ‘PROVERBS 20 v 1’ – Drinking 2 much makes u loud and foolish. It’s stupid 2 get drunk!

  • Juliet Peters

    IN THE BIBLE ‘PROVERBS 31 v 6-7’ – Alcohol is 4 people who r dying, 4 those who r in misery. Let them drink and 4get their poverty and unhappiness!

  • Juliet Peters

    IN THE BIBLE ‘PROVERBS 23 v 31-33’ – Don’t let wine tempt u, even though it is rich red, though it sparkles in the cup and it does down smoothly. The next morning u will feel as if u had been bitten by a poisonous snake. Weird sights will appear b4 ur eyes and u will not b able 2 think or speak clearly!

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