Charles Kennedy's death was announced this morning. Charles Kennedy was one of the greatest politicians of his generation, devoting his life to public service, having been elected as a Highlands MP at the age of 23. He was well known for his wit and charm when speaking, which touched many people beyond the world of politics. He led the Liberal Democrats to the party's greatest electoral successes and showed immense courage when standing up against injustice, most notably when his spoke for the country against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Liberal Democrats, and many more outside the party, will never forget him. A book of condolence for Charles Kennedy can be signed here.
Leading the tributes, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg said: "Charles's untimely death robs Britain of 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 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."
Mr Clegg continued: "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."
Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, paid tribute to Charles Kennedy: "With that cheeky smile, highland voice and a few simple words Charles Kennedy captured the political hearts of the nation. Charles had a unique combination of political talent and public affection. He had a healthy disdain for policy detail but had highly tuned political instincts. He was in his element on the campaign trail - stealing the show in a TV debate on independence, a joust with opponents in a public meeting in Portree or greeting people on streets of Dunfermline. His wise counsel and gentle encouragement is something I especially valued. I will miss him so much."
Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, paid tribute to Charles Kennedy. "We are all immensely sad to hear of this devastating news. You would struggle to meet a kinder man than Charles. He was a man who had time for everybody; a real people person and that made him stand out from all the rest. He will always be remembered for his warm personality and brilliant quick wit. Charles was a giant in our party. He was robust, sincere and passionate. Never will I be more proud of our party than when Charles us led from the front in our opposition to the Iraq war. This wasn’t a decision taken lightly, yet Charles was a man of principle and did what he knew was right. The party owes him a great gratitude for the position he took and the bravery he showed. Above all else, our thoughts go out to Charles’ family at this very difficult time."
Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat party president, paid tribute to Charles Kennedy: "Charles was a friend, colleague and personal mentor. I am desperately saddened by news of his death this morning. His gentle good humour combined with real courage, enabled him to engage with people who might otherwise have had little interest in politics. and he gave voice to the views of millions as the only mainstream party leader to oppose the Iraq War. His loss will be sorely felt today. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Former Lib Dem Leader Paddy Ashdown paid tribute to Mr Kennedy: "Charles had that remarkable ability to reach beyond that circle of professional politicians. In an age which is probably not overburdened with gaiety and good sense this is a talent that will be hugely missed. He had his demons as do we all, but on song and on form he was I think the very best of us. Let’s think about his achievements; he was the one person who stood against the political establishment and led the Liberal Democrats into opposing the Iraq war and history has proved him to be right."
Danny Alexander, the former Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury and former MP for the constituency neighbouring Charles Kennedy's, says: "Charles was a Highlander through and through, a great liberal, and one of the most talented politicians of his generation. He achieved a great deal for the communities he loved in the north of Scotland, and he gave courageous leadership to the opposition to the Iraq war."
John Bercow fought back tears as he announced the death of Charles Kennedy to MPs today. Speaker Bercow said: "It is with great sadness I must report to the House the death of the former member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Charles Kennedy. Charles represented his constituency in its various forms in this House for almost 32 years, it is moreover a matter of record that he led his party, the Liberal Democrats from 1999 to 2006, achieving the best parliamentary representation of his party in this House in living memory. On a personal note, I was always grateful to Charles for his support, encouragement and co-operation. I think I carry the House with me in saying Charles Kennedy was a principled, progressive and passionate politician and very importantly a proud parliamentarian."
Tony Blair, who Charles Kennedy took on almost singled-handedly over the invasion of Iraq, has called the death of the 55-year-old an "absolute tragedy". The former Prime Minister said: "He [Charles] came into Parliament at the same time as me in 1983. He was throughout his time a lovely, genuine and deeply committed public servant. As leader of the Liberal Democrats, we worked closely together and he was always great company, with a lively and inventive mind. I am very saddened indeed by this news."
Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister, recalls how he tried to persuade Charles Kennedy to defect to Labour: "One of the greatest debaters, orators and communicators who brought humour to politics, Charles Kennedy was a man who effortlessly combined rock-solid principles with a personality that was always open to argument and ready to listen. Possessing the warmest and most engaging of Scottish highland personalities, coupled with a natural charm that made him popular among even those who disagreed with him, he will be remembered as one of the most gifted and personable leaders of our time."
Mr Brown continued: "The first time I met Charles in 1983 I had recognised his ability and asked him to join the Labour Party. He politely declined. The last time I was in touch with him was to pass on condolences when his father, with whom he remained very close, sadly died just before the 2015 election. No one will forget the skills Charles demonstrated - with his undoubted ability to debate, lead and persuade - in bringing the Liberal Democrats to life, in arguing against the Iraq War and in putting the case for Scotland in the UK and Britain in Europe."
"He was a man who had even greater potential that will now forever remain unfulfilled and his loss will be felt deeply by all of us, particularly those who care about progressive values. My thoughts, and those of Sarah, are with his family and his young son of whom he was intensely proud." Gordon Brown added.
Paying tribute in Downing Street, the current Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This is a tragic loss for Charles's family. My heart goes out to them. David Cameron pays tribute to Charles Kennedy from Downing Street said: "It's also a tragic loss for politics and public life. He was someone of immense ability. It's not that often in politics that someone comes along with brains, talent, wit and bags of humanity and Charles had all of those things. He achieved so much, so young and he's been taken from us far too soon."
Harriet Harman, Leader of the Labour Party, commenting on the death of Charles Kennedy, said: "A deeply progressive politician, a delightful person, great intellect and hugely likeable. Charles Kennedy is a big loss. He had many friends and admirers across the Labour Party as he did across the political spectrum and amongst the public. Our thoughts are now with his family."
Alastair Campbell, the former Director of Communications for Tony Blair who has tackled his own problems with alcohol, said the two men - who became close friends - faced a "shared enemy". "Alcoholism is a disease and people should reflect on that," he told 5 live. "Charles struggled with it and I think it's harder to struggle with it if you're in the public eye and sometimes he was winning the struggle and sometimes he was losing the struggle. But through it all he was basically the same guy - very warm, very funny, very engaging, very good with people and very principled."
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute, saying: "I have some very fond personal memories of Charles. I had the privilege of spending some time with him on a political study visit that we made together to Australia in the mid-1990s. Perhaps my fondest memory from that visit – if perhaps a slightly bizarre memory - was of the two of us skiving off one day to watch Trainspotting in a Melbourne cinema. I think we were the only two Scots in the audience at that time, so we drew some very strange looks from other people as we were uproariously laughing at lots of jokes that nobody else in the cinema were even beginning to understand. That’s a small, but very special memory that I certainly will always treasure."
Jim Murphy, Scottish Labour leader, says the UK has lost "a political giant". Mr Murphy said: "Although we came from different political traditions, Charles was a man I was proud to call a friend. When I was first elected to the House of Commons back in 1997 as a young 29-year old, Charles was one of the first people to offer me support and guidance. He didn't have to, but he did. That's just the kind of man he was. Despite the sadness, those of us who knew him will remember the good times. We will look back at Charles' wit and good humour. In years to come we will remember with a smile the delight in knowing him, his huge contribution to politics and a life lost too soon.The greatest tribute I could pay to Charles is that I always wished he was Labour, because he was so talented and popular with the general public. He will be sadly missed across Scotland and the whole United Kingdom."
MP for Ross, Skye & Lochaber, Ian Blackford said: "I am shocked and saddened at the news of Charles Kennedy’s death. He was a bright, articulate and gregarious man and it is so sad that he has been taken at such a young age. My thoughts are with his family and all who knew and loved him. Charles was a very kind, decent and honest man. I have known him for a long time, and I will remember him as someone that could rise above party politics. I recall election night in 1999 – not a good night for the SNP, but Charles showed tremendous kindness and support that evening. I will never forget that."
"On the doorstep in the constituency there was undoubtedly a lot of warmth expressed toward him – and he had helped a lot of people during his time as an MP. His humanity and kind nature endeared him to so many. Charlie Kennedy set a fine example of how a member of parliament should serve their constituents and make their political arguments and that is something all of us in public life should all learn from and aspire to." Mr Blackford added.