UK Politics

Charles Kennedy and I: Your memories

Charles Kennedy Image copyright Tony Timmington
Image caption Photographer Tony Timmington met Charles Kennedy at his Westminster flat in the 1990s. He says: "I remember he had stacks and stacks of copies of Hansard"

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has died aged 55 at his home in Fort William, the Highlands.

A charismatic figure, he led the party to its best election result, in 2005, but he resigned eight months after the election after revealing he had been receiving treatment for a long-standing drink problem.

In this year's general election, he lost his seat.

You have been sharing your tributes and memories.

Iain Marshall, Lochaber, school-friend

"We went to the same school - Lochaber High School. I was a bit younger than Charles - by about four years. He was active in debating then.

"You could tell he was going to be bit of a star. He was decent guy even back then.

"I knew his family as well. I was a piper, and his father was a fiddler.

"My mother taught him at school.

"A teacher called Bob Dick was instrumental in getting Charles into debating by entering him into a competition, which he won.

"That was the start of his political career.

"I've known about his problems in recent years.

"When I heard he'd lost his seat, I felt for him then.

"It's a sad day for us all because he's had the seat for so long. He was a popular person.

"It's a tragedy. Everyone here is pretty devastated."

Phil Lucas, Brighton, letter writer

Image copyright Phil Lucas
Image caption Charles Kennedy said he thought Gonzo the Muppet was a nice guy

Many people on social media have shared a letter Charles Kennedy wrote to comedy writer Phil Lucas in 2004 explaining who his favourite Muppet character was.

Although Mr Lucas published a copy of the letter on Twitter in 2012, the words have resonated with many today.

Mr Lucas said he felt the reply - which revealed Gonzo as the lucky Muppet - showed that Mr Kennedy had been prepared to engage with people in a witty, clever way.

He said: "He was the only one to reply of the three major party leaders at the time.

"I thought it was lovely he took the time to do so and to have done it so well.

"It's one of my favourites and one I shall keep safe.

"It's a very sad day today. He was a genuine guy who many people held in high regard."

Matt Platts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Matt Platts met Charles Kennedy after winning an essay contest in 2001.

He said: "Charles was a very thoughtful and kind individual, he may have not always made the best decisions, but I know he was motivated by wanting to do the best."

Image copyright Matt Platts
Image caption A then 17-year-old Matt Platt met and lunched with Charles Kennedy after winning an essay competition in 2001

Image copyright other

James Raven, Cambridge, friend

Image copyright Karen Raven
Image caption James Raven says he was honoured to be able to call Charles Kennedy his friend

"The death of Charles Kennedy is a devastating loss for British politics. It's a tremendous shock.

"A man of the greatest integrity, he advanced the cause of social justice and liberalism with immense thoughtfulness and determination.

"He combined enormous personal charm with huge and self-deprecating abilities. He was so effective because he was so passionate and warm.

"I first knew him as a very young MP in 1983, and we campaigned together through the 1990s and three general elections.

"I was honoured to call him my friend and have treasured memories of his personal and generous support.

"He was an immensely gifted leader. I suggested he took a sabbatical to overcome his problems. I think the party would have accepted that. I regret he stood down.

"In private he was quite a shy man. He was a good friend to people. He was a very proud Highlander.

"He will be missed by everyone who cared for the future of this country."

Other comments

"Greatly saddened by the [death of the] nicest, most decent politician I have ever met. I met him on numerous occasions, and he was rare in his warmth and humility. I remember him discussing the privatisation of railways with me whilst I was trying to listen to the football on my radio and being amazed that he didn't take offence! Never once did I see him be anything other than genial and humble. My thoughts are with his family and friends." Adam Cox, Newport, Gwent

"I met Charles for the first time when he was seeing one of my PR execs, Sarah Gurling. I was privileged to be at their wedding and then meeting him several times after that. Charles was a very special individual - a great politician, courageous and full of integrity but also a man of the people, with the common touch. I am sure that we are all deeply saddened by what has happened. He will be missed - and hopefully history will show what a great guy he was." Dame Dianne Thompson, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight

"I had the privilege of knowing Charles Kennedy when I was in schools debating competitions in 1980. It was clear then, as a young man who was a senior judge in national competitions, he was someone of immense intellect but more importantly a person who could connect with people at all levels. As a 17-year-old in Sixth Form, you couldn't have had a greater role model than Charles Kennedy. He will be sadly missed by many." James O'Donnell, Houston, Texas

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Image caption Tributes have been pouring in to the BBC News Facebook page

Produced by Sherie Ryder and Dhruti Shah

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