You could never be sure if Charles Kennedy was going to show up, says Shirley Williams

The Baroness recounted the former Lib Dem leader's battle with alcoholism

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Williams has addressed Charles Kennedy’s battle with alcoholism, recounting difficulties working with him during the worst stages of his illness.

“You could never be quite sure he would show up on a particular great occasion; you were always living with uncertainty, always wondering if he was going to be there,” she told BBC Radio 4’s World at One Programme.

"There were occasions where he didn't come at all or he came but he was not really in a fit state to deal with the issues that he was trying to talk about.

"But he was so wonderful when he did get there that you forgave almost everything. He was just a staggering human being.”

But despite Mr Kennedy’s battle with his disease, Baroness Williams said she believed he “might one day be one of the best prime ministers that the United Kingdom had ever had”.

“I remember when we finally concluded that he really couldn't continue, we didn't say 'You can't continue, stand down', what we said was 'Look, Charles, take a year off, give yourself time to kick the habit' because it takes a long, hard path to do so, we knew that,” she said. "We have seen a great man go, a really, truly, great man.”

Mr Kennedy stepped down as leader of his party in 2006 after speculation about his drinking habits. He announced at the time that he was obtaining treatment for alcoholism.


In an open and personal blog post Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell wrote about how he and the former Liberal Democrat leader had mutually supported each other during their struggles with drinking.

Mr Kennedy died suddenly at home in Fort William aged 55, according to a statement by this family.

Police Scotland said the death is not being treated as suspicious.  A post-mortem is set to be carried out.

“Charles was a fine man, a talented politician, and a loving father to his young son. We ask therefore that the privacy of his family is respected in the coming days,” his family’s statement said.

Mr Kennedy led the Liberal Democrats to their best ever general election result in 2005 when they gained 62 seats.

He led the party between 1999 and 2006 and was an MP in the Highlands of Scotland between 1983 and 2015, having lost his seat to the SNP at the last election.