Tributes flow in for Lib Dem leader 'hounded from office'

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy's wife, Sarah, said she was "very proud" of her husband and his achievements, as politicians and friends lined up to pay tribute to the former party leader yesterday.

Speaking outside her south London home, Mrs Kennedy, who firmly supported his decision to quit, said: "I am very very proud of him, personally and for what he has achieved."

Mr Kennedy's parents said they were "immensely proud" of their son, but expressed relief that the episode was now over. Speaking from Fort William, Scotland, Mary Kennedy, 80, said: "I think he made a first-class speech and he was very forthcoming and very straight and we are immensely proud of him. In a way I'm glad it is over, but I don't think it needed to come to this."

Mr Kennedy's 79-year-old father, Ian, hit out at the "plotters" who pushed his son out. "This is nothing to do with drink or my son's leadership. This is to do with a bunch of political plotters in his party who wanted him out regardless of anything."

The former party leader, Lord Ashdown, hailed Mr Kennedy's achievements. "The Liberal Democrats owe him a great debt as the leader who presided over the highest number of seats and greater share of the popular vote for Britain's third party in living memory," he said. Sir Menzies Campbell praised Mr Kennedy for his "dignity and courage".

However, some MPs claimed that he had been "hounded out" of office. Lembit Opik, the party's Northern Ireland spokesman, said he was "really sad" about Mr Kennedy's departure. "He was the right man to do the job and he has been hounded out by people who didn't appreciate his qualities. But he has put the party first and that was the right decision," he said.

Mark Oaten, the party's home affairs spokesman, said it was "a really sad day for the party and I'm upset, frankly".