Sometimes it is hard to believe how fast time passes, however with the passing of Charles Kennedy, time seems to have past faster then ever. I personally cannot believe it is now three years that we lost him.
That morning, I was awoken by my mobile phone ringing. The number was withheld, and I was tempted to ignore it. However, as someone was calling at 6.15 in the morning, I felt it must be important. I tried to shake the sleepiness from my voice as I answered. It was my local BBC Radio station. They asked it I could be interviewed on air in 15 minutes about the news that broken overnight. I explained that they had woken me up and that I had not seen any news as yet that morning. The journalist on the phone replied saying that they could delay the interview until after the 7 o’clock news, but would phone me back in 15 minutes once I had looked at the news.
My heart sank as I read the headline on the BBC News app, and tears started to form in my eyes. For me, Charles was the leader when I joined the party. It was that speech at the Stop the War Rally that cemented my membership as a Liberal Democrat after many years of support after studying politics at A Level and before. The phone rang again, and I rubbed away the tears that were still in the corner of my ear. I agree to do the interview; however, I do not remember much about it at all as I was still in shock.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet Charles and speak to him, but whenever he spoke at conference or on the TV, you felt he was talking to you not at you. He had that way of communicating that directly tapped into the individual, even when there was a crowd of thousands. The human touch was something that set him aside from some of the other leaders at the time. Charles did not need to try to appear ‘human’, he just was. This quote from a 2005 Guardian Interview sums it up: “Actually, I think it’s quite sensible not to take yourself too seriously. The vast majority of people think there’s a hell of a lot more to life than just politics. And you’ve got to bear that in mind – because you’re actually trying to represent them.”
His presence was sorely missed in the European Referendum debate a year later. Charles was a passionate European, however he was not afraid to stand up and point out areas that needed reform. With Cameron and Osbourne using the so-called ‘Project Fear’ and a series of figures, Charles’ commitment and passion, along with his human-touch might have been the difference. Unfortunately, we can never know. I am sure he would be as frustrated with the decision as the rest of the Liberal Democrats, and would have continued to fight on for the European cause.
Charles – your wit, wisdom and warmth are missed by those who knew you, and many like myself who did not.
To finish, I will leave you with what I feel is my favourite Charles Kennedy quote which he said about the then leader of the Lib Dems in 1998, which to me characterises Charles sense of humour which came across:
“Paddy Ashdown is the only party leader who’s a trained killer. Although, to be fair, Mrs Thatcher was self-taught.”