Charles Kennedy dead: Watch the former Liberal Democrat leader's impassioned speech in favour of Britain in the EU

'The chips are down as never before on the European issue in British politics and a lot of the responsibility rests with us'

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Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader between 1999 and 2006, who led his party to its best electoral showing in the 2005 general election, has died aged 55.

Mr Kennedy passed away suddenly at his home in Fort William. A statement released on behalf of his family said: “It is with great sadness, and an enormous sense of shock, that we announce the death of Charles Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy became the youngest MP in the House of Commons when he was elected in 1983 and became leader of his party at the age of 39. He was well known for his passionate speeches, his eloquence and his wit, which many colleagues and former opponents are uniting to compliment following his untimely death.

Back in 2013, ahead of the European elections in 2014, Mr Kennedy gave a typically powerful and experienced speech at the Liberal Democrat conference, a speech that is ever more poignant as Britain braces itself for a referendum on its EU membership.

In particular, Mr Kennedy spoke about his opposition to the Iraq War and what it taught him about presenting a strong voice against the prevailing winds: "When we took the decision over Iraq, it wasn't popular. We were isolated as a party, inside parliament and outside, and I was worried.

"What that episode proved to me, is that you can take a distinct position that marks you out and people can recognise your sincerity and your honesty and make a case that none of the others are prepared to make. That's our responsibility."

Watch the full speech below:

Mr Kennedy would have campaigned for the Yes to Europe side in the upcoming referendum with grit, determination and sincerity. The Yes cause is worse off without him, but the pro-European cause must remember these words: "The chips are down as never before on the European issue in British politics and a lot of the responsibility rests with us."

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