Labour's Alastair Campbell pays moving tribute to close family friend Charles Kennedy

The pair supported each other during their respective struggles with alcohol, a 'shared enemy'

Jon Stone
Tuesday 02 June 2015 15:47
Mr Campbell
Mr Campbell

The former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has been found dead at his home at the age of 55.

The former Lib Dem leader, who lost his seat in the general election, was described as a "fine man and loving father" by his family.

No cause of death have been given, but police have said the circumstances around his death are not suspicious.

Mr Kennedy was leader of the Lib Dems from 1999 to 2006, during which time he led the party's opposition to the Iraq War. He resigned after revealing that he had been receiving treatment for an alcohol problem.

His death has been met with tributes from across the political spectrum.

In a highly personal blog post, the former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell said he had been unable to sleep after hearing the news yesterday.

Mr Campbell recounted the mutual aid the pair had given each other during their respective struggles with alcohol.

“’Health remains fine’ – this was a little private code we had, which meant we were not drinking,” he explained. He further described the "demon drink" and their "shared enemy".

David Cameron described the former MP of the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency of having "brains, talent, wit and bags of humanity".

The Prime Minister described the former Liberal Democrat leader as a politician of "immense ability" and said his death was a "tragic loss".

The former Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott described his former leader's battle with alcohol as a "terrible disease" that had cut short his career.

“Let’s be frank. If he had had not had a drink problem, he would be the leader of the Liberal Democrats today, and the Liberal Democrats would be in a far, far stronger position,” he told the Sky News channel.

“It was drink that got him. I last saw him on a bus a few weeks before the election coming in. And we had a very good chat. But he clearly wasn’t at all well.”

Mr Campbell had first met Mr Kennedy while working as a journalist at the Daily Mirror newspaper.

He revealed that he had discussed with the Liberal Democrat MP whether he should accept an offer to work for Tony Blair.

The pair’s families had spent “either Easter, or Christmas and New Year, sometimes both, in Charles’ former constituency” together, he said.

Mr Campbell also revealed that he had tried to recruit Mr Kennedy to the Labour party on an “annual” basis – an offer which was never taken up.

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

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.

Mr Campbell's full blog post can be read HERE.

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