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Tributes paid to Charles Kennedy

By Andrew Grice

Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats who has died aged 55, won praise across the political spectrum yesterday.

He was the Lib Dems' most successful leader, winning a record 62 seats at the 2005 election. He also overruled doubters in his own party to lead opposition to the 2003 Iraq War.

Mr Kennedy was found dead on Monday at his cottage in the Highland constituency of Ross, Skye and Lochaber. He had represented the seat since 1983, becoming the youngest MP at the age of 23, until he was a victim of the SNP tide at last month's election.

Mr Kennedy's family said in a statement: "We are obviously devastated at the loss. Charles was a fine man, a talented politician, and a loving father to his young son."

Police described his death as sudden, with no suspicious circumstances. A post mortem will be held. He was found dead by Carole MacDonald, the widow of his best friend Murdo MacDonald, who died in 2007 aged 49. According to friends, Mr Kennedy was in a relationship with her.

Mr Kennedy's marriage to PR executive Sarah Gurling broke up after eight years in 2010, five years after his son Donald was born.

His teetotal father Ian, to whom he was very close, died in April, when he temporarily suspended his election campaign.

Mr Kennedy's six-year term as Lib Dem leader ended in January 2006 when he was forced out by his party after admitting he had an alcohol problem.

Some friends at Westminster feared the worst for Mr Kennedy after his 13,070 majority was overturned by the SNP, and even raised alarm bells with Lib Dem aides.

Lembit Opik, the former MP, said: "There was no support for him in his last days. I really was concerned this was going to happen."

But friends who had spoken to Mr Kennedy in the last 10 days insisted he was on good form.

Belfast Telegraph


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