Charles Kennedy was a giant of our time

Charles Kennedy was one of more than 50 Lib Dem MPs to lose their seats last month in the 2015 general election after five years in government with the conservatives.  This was a loss he could not bear.

The youngest member elected to Parliament in 1983, Mr Kennedy rose to become the Leader in 1999 and led the party to its finest hour with 62 Liberal Democrat MPs elected in 2005.

He had great foresight and the stubborn strength of a Scot to stand true to his principles, even if he stood alone.

In 2010 he warned Nick Clegg of the danger to the party if Liberal Democrats signed the coalition agreement with the Tories.

He was a lone voice in Parliament and the only Lib Dem MP to vote against the coalition.  Others had reservations but felt the electorate had voted for a majority conservative government.

Mr Kennedy understood what a formal coalition with the conservatives would do to the membership of the Liberal Democrat party.

The Lib Dems staunchly oppose Trident while the conservatives favour a nuclear college.

Membership of the European Union is a central pillar of the Liberal Democrats who are proud internationalists.

The conservatives, bowing to pressure from UKIP, may agree to leave the EU if unreformed.

Charles Kennedy understood the importance of fair taxation, free university education which they achieved in Scotland and above all the need to oppose the war in Iraq.

His progressive policies saw the membership of the Liberal Democrats blossom and under his leadership more than ever Lib Dem MPs were returned to Parliament.

Mr Kennedy’s force of personality, his wit including appearances on ‘Have I got news for you’, his humanity and very ordinariness, humour without pretension or pomposity won hearts and minds.  An extraordinary brain grounded by Highland crofts.

This must be Charles Kennedy’s legacy: his clear, principled desire to do what was right and what Liberal Democrat members expected of him.

Let us hope that the Liberal Democrat remnant in Parliament, those seeking new ways to influence politics and the growing membership will be mindful of this 2005 legacy: freedom, fairness and above all trust.

This blog post was sent to Lib Dem Voice and Charles Kennedy’s book of condolences for his family.