Charles Kennedy, former Liberal Democrat leader, dies aged 55
Former Liberal Democrat Party leader Charles Kennedy has died at his home in Scotland aged 55, his family has said.
The Scottish ex-MP's death was not believed to be suspicious and the cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
Mr Kennedy, who led his party from 1999 to 2006, lost his seat in the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency in last month's general election.
His family said they felt an "enormous sense of shock" and paid tribute to a fine man and talented politician.
They said Mr Kennedy died at home in Fort William on Monday and said they were "devastated".
A post-mortem is due to take place.
An MP since 1983, Mr Kennedy took over the Liberal Democrat leadership from Paddy Ashdown in 1999.
He led the party to its best election result since the 1920s in 2005, when the Lib Dems won 62 seats.
In January 2006 he said he had been receiving treatment for an alcohol problem and resigned as leader.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Mr Kennedy was one of the "most gifted politicians of his generation".
"Charles devoted his life to public service, yet he had an unusual gift for speaking about politics with humour and humility which touched people well beyond the world of politics," he said in a statement.Charles Kennedy in 2001 celebrating the best general election result for any third party at the time since 1923
"He was one of the most gentle and unflappable politicians I have ever known, yet he was immensely courageous too not least when he spoke for the country against the invasion of Iraq."
And Mr Ashdown paid tribute to the politician and tweeted: "Charles Kennedy. In a political age not overburdened with gaiety and good sense, he brought us wit, charm, judgement, principle and decency."
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "Sad beyond words to hear the news about Charlie Kennedy. A lovely man and one of the most talented politicians of his time. Gone too soon."
SNP's Ian Blackford, who won Mr Kennedy's seat in last month's election, tweeted: "So sorry to hear the dreadful news that Charles Kennedy had passed away.
"A man of such great ability, such a tragedy he has passed away. RIP."
Family says long-time Scottish MP – who led the Lib Dems in two elections but lost his seat at the May poll – died at home in Fort William
Staff and agencies
Tuesday 2 June 2015
The former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has died at his home aged 55, his family said.
The long-time Scottish ex-MP lost his seat in the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency to the SNP’s Ian Blackford in last month’s general election.
A statement released on behalf of his family said: “It is with great sadness, and an enormous sense of shock, that we announce the death of Charles Kennedy.
“Charles died at home in Fort William yesterday. He was 55. We are obviously devastated at the loss.
“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.
“There will be a postmortem and we will issue a further statement when funeral arrangements are made.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Police officers attended an address at Fort William on Monday, 1 June to reports of the sudden death of a 55-year-old man. Police were notified by ambulance service personnel.
“There are no suspicious circumstances and our report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.”
Tributes began to flow immediately as the news broke on Tuesday morning.
An MP since 1983, Kennedy had previously taken the party to its best election result since the 1920s at the 2005 contest.
His political career began in the Social Democratic party, winning the Ross, Cromarty and Skye seat to become the youngest MP of the time at the age of 24.
Taking over from Paddy Ashdown in 1999, he went on to lead the party through its most successful period.
His leadership was marked by his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which helped propel the Liberal Democrats to their best result in more than 80 years with 62 seats.
But in January 2006 – following months of rumours about his drinking – Kennedy dramatically admitted he had been receiving treatment for an alcohol problem and said he was calling a leadership contest.
While he declared that he wanted to carry on, he was forced to stand down in the face of the threat of mass resignations by senior colleagues.
Nick Clegg paid tribute to his predecessor as Liberal Democrat leader:
Charles devoted his life to public service, yet he had an unusual gift for speaking about politics with humour and humility which touched people well beyond the world of politics.
He was a staunch internationalist and passionate believer in Britain’s role in Europe, yet he was a proud Highlander, Scot and British parliamentarian.
He was one of the most gentle and unflappable politicians I have ever known, yet he was immensely courageous too not least when he spoke for the country against the invasion of Iraq. He led the Liberal Democrats to our party’s greatest electoral successes, yet he always remained modest about his huge achievements.
Whenever I asked him for advice he was unfailingly kind and wise. Most of all, I will never forget the pride and love with which he would talk about his own family, most especially his devotion to his son Donald.
My heart goes out to his sister and brother and to Sarah and Donald at this tragic time.
The Scottish first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: “Sad beyond words to hear the news about Charlie Kennedy. A lovely man and one of the most talented politicians of his time. Gone too soon.”
Lord Carlile, a Liberal Democrat peer, told the broadcaster Mr Kennedy was a politician who won friends across party lines. “His promise was huge. Unfortunately he had an affliction shared by a number of other people,” he said.
“It is most important, we reflect upon talents and ability of a very, very nice person. He was one of those people who everybody like, who everybody respected and, when he was on really cracking form, everybody listened to.”
The Press Association contributed to this report