1st June 2015

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy dies

Charles Kennedy was born in Inverness on 25 November 1959 and studied politics at the University of Glasgow. Although he was to become prominent in the Liberal Democrats late in life, he initially joined the Labour Party, followed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) upon its formation seven years later.

As a member of the SDP, he was elected to the seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye in the general election of 1983. Over the years, boundary changes saw his constituency reconfigured several times, becoming Ross, Skye and Inverness West in 1997 and, in 2005, Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

Emergence of the Liberal Democrats

Kennedy spent more than three decades as a member of the House of Commons, but the Liberal Democrats didn’t exist when he first arrived there in the early 1980s. It was formed by a merger of the SDP with the much older Liberal Party, which had been founded in 1859 and formed the ruling government under prime minister Lloyd George.

In 1988, the two parties became one, as the Social and Liberal Democratic Party, which soon changed its name to simply the Liberal Democrats. Kennedy was elected the party leader in August 1999, aged 39. He led it through several successive general elections during which the party significantly improved its share of seats in the House of Commons.

Kennedy stands down

Kennedy announced in 2006 that he had been receiving treatment for alcoholism, which had previously been denied but discussed in media circles. This announcement came in the wake of criticism of his leadership from many Liberal Democrat members and supporters. Kennedy called a leadership election in which he chose not to stand.

Despite no longer being leader, Kennedy remained a backbench MP, in which capacity he campaigned for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom in the 2014 referendum on independence. He lost his seat to the Scottish National Party in the general election of 2015 in which the Conservative Party under David Cameron won an overall majority, triggering the referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

Charles Kennedy dies

Less than a month after the election, Charles Kennedy died at home in Fort William. The BBC quoted a Police Scotland spokesperson, who said, “Police officers attended an address at Fort William on Monday, June 1 to reports of the sudden death of a 55-year-old man. Police were notified by ambulance service personnel. There are no suspicious circumstances.”

On 2 June, the day after his death, The Guardian wrote that “despite the problems that affected his last days as Lib Dem leader, as he struggled with alcoholism, his allies and opponents have unfailingly described him as kind but also exceedingly principled – especially in his opposition to the Iraq war and the 2010 Lib Dem coalition with the Conservatives.”



Other events that occured in June

FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.