“Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism.”
Formed in 1988 as a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Liberal Democrats have been (for as long as I can remember) a key party in UK Politics focused primarily on the concept of personal freedoms and social equality and balance.
In my politically aware life, Lord Ashdown was the first leader, Nick Clegg the most recent. In the middle we’ve had Ming Campbell and Mr Charles “ChatShow Charlie” Kennedy. Charles Kennedy passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 55.
Charlie Kennedy was by all accounts an extra-ordinary man. Witty and charming, people felt drawn to him. Whether it was arguing about politics, or just simply spending time with him, he seems to have been well liked across the entire political mainstream.
As Liberal leader, he led us to our then greatest Parliamentary representation, bringing in more MPs to the House of Commons than ever before.
Always the way though, Charlie had his demons. Noticeable towards the end of his time as Leader, it became clear Charlie had problems with alcohol.
I discovered last night that in this country today, 1 in 10 men have problems with alcohol whilst 1 in 20 women suffer. This is a remarkable stat (and I’d be intrigued to know where the lady on QuestionTime got it), but it means Charlie was far from alone.
Despite being popular and claiming to be successfully treated for the addiction, Charlie would eventually lose his seat in May this year. After 32 years as an MP (having won his seat aged only 23), as well as losing his father earlier this year, it all seems to have got to him.
On Tuesday morning, Charlie was found by a close friend, slumped dead in a chair at his home (he lived alone after divorcing his wife in recent years, their 10 year old son living with her). After false rumours of suicide and all manner of explanation, we now know that he died of a haemorrhage linked to his alcoholism.
Since his demise, there’s been a lot of talk about what Charlie’s legacy would be. A Liberal inspiration, further evidence that those with problems need a greater support network, much, much more.
Personally, a friend of mine, following the news today about the cause of death, even asked me if losing a hero to alcoholism has made me rethink my drinking habits.
On reflection, no I don’t think it will.
Charlie was a great, albeit apparently troubled, man, but if anything, his demise should teach us 4 key things.
Moderation – Slightly cancelling out my earlier statement, Charlie has taught us that when possible, everything should be enjoyed in moderation. Towards the end, he had little control over the alcohol, but if we aren’t hooked, we should learn to pace ourselves and learn to savour rather than engulf.
Achievements/Goals – Like Charlie, I think I’ve probably under-achieved in life. Charlie could’ve been a leader of the opposition, maybe even a Prime Minister. Sadly his career was blighted by the bottle. It could be argued that I’ve suffered similar, albeit lower scale, limitations in life. I’ve had opportunities in life to grow myself, to achieve greater than I have. More often than not, I’ve backed away. Whether confidence or alcohol based, I’ve not lived up to my potential so far. Today is the start of something new.
The Struggle – Charlie had his problems. In a modern, faster paced world, we all seem to have them. Whether it is an addiction or an illness, people need help. Charlie didn’t get that it seems, or at least he more likely rejected it. What we need to realise is that when we’re in trouble, people are there to help us. We should never be afraid to accept that.
Happy – Finally, I think Charlie also showed us the one simple truth. The fact that in life, it IS possible to be a nice and caring person, yet not finish last.
Whatever his legacy, it is safe to say that Charles “ChatShow Charlie” Kennedy will be missed.
Rest in Peace Charlie.