I was very much saddened to hear of the death of Charles Kennedy yesterday. Whilst he fell from grace with the general public - and did his party no good thereby - when he had to resign as leader, at his best he was a good, honest politician whom we shall be the poorer without. I particularly remember him leading the opposition to the Iraq War in 2003. It was a principled stand and one which I admired, running as it did against the established convention that all political parties stand united at a time of national conflict or threat. But Kennedy correctly saw that the threat was non-existent and the policy one of opportunism and expediency, where other possible options such as supporting the UN-led pressure on Iraq existed. I agreed with him, but more than that I thought it took a great deal of guts and political acumen to stand up for something that he and much of the party believed in, and which he thought important for our country. Many would say that he was right, and that the situation we now have in the Middle East is a direct consequence of the instability we in the West created when we removed Saddam Hussein from power without properly considering the consequences of doing so. Iraqi people embraced the idea of liberty from tyranny, but democracy needs to grow rather than being imposed, if people are to be able to sustain it.
It must have been a terrible blow to Charles when he lost his seat to the Scottish Nationalists in the recent general election, as for so many Liberal Democrat MPs who had worked hard for our country in Coalition only to be deserted by their partners and by the electorate. Not to mention the role played so clearly by our broken and skewed electoral system that does not deliver representative government across the country. Let us press to change that in memory of Charles Kennedy.
Rest In Peace