Nick Clegg's heartfelt, touching tribute to Charles Kennedy in the Commons

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Wednesday 03 June 2015 15:00
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MPs gathered today for the first Prime Minister's Questions since the passing of former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy on Wednesday.

With his ex-wife Sarah and 10-year-old son Donald in attendance, both prime minister David Cameron and acting Labour leader Harriet Harman gave warm tributes to the Scottish MP.

But perhaps the most touching came from Nick Clegg, his former colleague and one of his successors as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

On Kennedy’s family values:

While we all remember Charles as a formidable parliamentarian and a much loved politician it is worth remembering that he retained his greatest pride and devotion for his family.

Much though he was wedded to politics all his life, I think Charles would have wanted to be remembered as a kind and loving father, brother and son first and an accomplished politician second. And my thoughts and condolences are with all his family, especially Donald, and friends today.

On Kennedy’s humanity:

Maybe Mr Speaker, it was that enduring humanity. People always came before politics for Charles, which is reflected in the heartfelt tributes over the last 24 hours from so many outside the world of politics who didn’t know him directly but somehow still felt that they did know him and could relate to him.

He had and still has that rare gift for someone in public life that when people think of him they smile.

He saw good in people, even his staunchest political foes and that always brought out the best in people in return. He was the polar opposite of a cardboard cut-out, points-scoring party politician. Brave yet vulnerable. Brilliant yet flawed. As he would often say about people he admired most: he was a fully signed up member of the human race.

On Kennedy’s principles:

His good humour must not obscure the fact that there was a steely courage about him, most memorably on display when he took the principled decision to oppose the Iraq war. Just because that might seem an obvious thing to have done now, it most certainly wasn’t at the time.

Charles was often a lone voice in this house standing up against a consensus in favour of war on all sides. And the fact that he was proved so spectacularly right is a tribute to his judgment and intuitive common sense.

On Kennedy’s wisdom:

I think Charles would be the first to admit cheerily that he was not exactly a details man when it came to policy. He treated the necessary but often tedious detail of policy discussions within the Liberal Democrats with the same attitude he viewed Ben Nevis in his own constituency: something to be admired from afar but a trial to be endured by others.

And one of his earliest decisions when he became leader of the Liberal Democrats was to end the long-held convention that the leader of the party should attend all of the regular and invariably lengthy meetings of the Liberal Democrat Federal Party Policy Committee.. It was a characteristically wise decision for which I was forever grateful during my time as leader.

On Kennedy’s loyalty and opposition to entering the Coalition:

He remained unstintingly loyal, no matter what the circumstances and no matter how strong the temptation must have been to blow his own trumpet and say that events had proved him right.

On the loss to British politics:

Our liberal political family has lost one of its most admired advocates. British politics has lost one of its best storytellers. This house has lost one of its warmest wits and most loyal parliamentarians. Mr Speaker, if we could all carry ourselves with a little more of the honesty, wisdom and humility of Charles Kennedy, politics would be held in much higher esteem than it is today.

You can watch Clegg's tribute here:

More: Tributes pour in for Charles Kennedy: a decent friend, a superb MP, an absolute giant

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