Charlie Kennedy 316

I have known Charlie since about 1979. He was, and always remained, a brilliant, witty and very gentle man. His weaknesses were of the gregarious kind, one of many things we had in common. We first met on the universities debating circuit and in student politics. He became President of Glasgow University Union and I of Dundee University Students Association. As we both ran as Liberal Democrats that was uncommon. By one of life’s quirks, a generation later he was Rector of Glasgow University and I was Rector of Dundee University. We both shared a horror of the marketization of universities and an urgent desire to return to the old Scottish tradition of democratic governance, and we worked together with other Rectors to institute regular Rectors’ meetings and try to make the office of Rector relevant.

Charlie had come under the most enormous pressure not to oppose the Iraq war. The entire force of the British establishment bore down on him, including from former party leaders and from Ming Campbell, though he denies it now. Charlie showed tremendous courage and spirit in resisting the pressures to which almost everybody in authority in the Westminster power structure caved in.

Charlie told me the story of how, as party leader, he was invited by Blair to Downing Street to be shown the original key evidence on Iraqi WMD. Charlie was really worried as he walked there, that there really would be compelling evidence as Blair said, and he would then be unable to maintain the party line against the war. When he saw the actual intelligence on which the dodgy dossier was based, he was astounded. It was incredibly weak and “totally unconvincing”. Blair was not present while Charlie saw the reports, but he saw him afterwards and told Blair he was quite astonished by the paucity of the evidence. Blair went white and looked really rattled, and resorted to a plea for patriotic solidarity. He then reminded Charlie he was not allowed to reveal what he had seen. Charlie felt bound by good faith – he had been shown the intelligence in confidence – not to publish this. Not I think his best moral judgement.

Charlie was very definitely not an enthusiastic supporter of the coalition and, though a federalist not a nationalist, generally kept his distance from the Better Together campaign. He seemed to me to have lost self-confidence through the exposure of his struggles with alcohol, and probably underrated his influence. Charlie was consistent in both his faults and his principles. As President of Glasgow University Union, he was inclined to hands off sybaritism; his expenses and use of taxis became an issue, and that epicurean streak never left him. In his presence I always felt an inferior talent, and those of us who knew him 35 years ago I think all expected him to rise even higher than he did. But he never had the sociopathic streak that makes a dominant political career, and he was at base a very decent and kind man. That is how I shall remember him.

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316 thoughts on “Charlie Kennedy

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  • Clark

    RobG, I specified “as fast as politically possible” because it’s impossible to keep people voting for their own deaths, and electricity shortfalls in industrialised societies would be visibly responsible for deaths (whereas cancer can be statistically attributed to all sorts of causes).

  • Clark

    RobG, the Chernobyl reactor core exploded by going prompt-critical. That’s why there isn’t an ongoing meltdown at Chernobyl, but it also dispersed freshly reacted contaminants (as opposed to considerably mellowed spent fuel) into the environment. Thus, there could be less radioactive contamination from Fukushima than from Chernobyl, despite the much greater reactor inventories at Fukushima.

    My spell-checker passes ‘Chernobyl’ but highlights ‘Fukushima’. I bet it passes both in a few years time.

    But my point is that I think it’s important to be accurate and to get things in proper perspective.

  • Mick Napier

    I may have arrived after the discussion is closed but I’ve been listening to so much vapid tosh about Charles Kennedy that some irrefutable facts might be useful:
    1. With good reason, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel Chair Gavin Stollar called him “my friend and mentor” who was “a great friend of Israel”.
    2. Kennedy gave a straight pro-Israeli speech on Question Time (22 Nov 2012) supporting Israel’s “right to defend itself” by massacring Palestinians in Gaza just as “every other country” would have done, adding for good measure that the Palestinians “were not justified” in opposing the Israeli siege.
    3. Along with Tony Blair and Michael Howard, Charles Kennedy was a Patron of the Jewish National Fund. The JNF is a racist organisation that has long been active in the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. It buys or acquires land that is ethnically cleansed of all Palestinians and makes it available to Jews only on a segregated basis. The pre-state history of the JNF in Palestine involved collecting information on Palestinians in villages who might resist the Zionist plans for dispossession; the information was used by Zionist assassination squads in the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948.
    David Cameron ended his Honorary Patronage of the JNF on tactical grounds two years ago and was attacked by some Zionists for doing so. Equally aware of the openly racist nature of the JNF, both Clegg and Miliband broke with the established tradition that each mainstream party leader becomes a JNF Patron soon after assuming the position and declined the offer to become Hon Patrons.
    Kennedy could have declined the JNF’s invitation when he became LibDem Leader but the “great friend of Israel” accepted and lent his support to a racist organisation involved in the dispossession of the Palestinian people.
    4. Charles Kennedy was also a supporter of a pseudo-peace group, One Voice, and chaired a One Voice meeting at Glasgow University while he was Rector. He kept very bad company; the One Voice website lists some of the ugliest ethnic-cleansing voices in Israel among its supporters, e.g. members of the Likud (a party inspired by Mussolini), as well as Matan Vilnai, who shortly before Charles Kennedy chaired their meeting had threatened the people of Gaza with a ‘holocaust’ (Shoah) if they continued to resist Israel’s brutal siege.
    5. In January 2004 Charles Kennedy sacked Dr Jenny Tonge from his frontbench after she suggested the agony of the Palestinian people was such that she might have resorted to violence had she been a Palestinian. This, Charles Kennedy insisted, was “completely unacceptable”.
    The mentor of the pro-Israel faction in the Lib Dems, a defender of serial Israeli massacres of Palestinians, said that there can be “no justification under any circumstances for taking innocent lives through terrorism.”

  • Truth Hurts

    I have no lost love for Charles Kennedy. His comment on Savile’s death

    “Jimmy Savile was a true and long-standing friend to the West Highlands over decades of diligence and decency. A sad loss indeed.”

    This and his pro Israel stance are both vomit inducing.

  • Mary

    Mick Napier I greatly respect you for your assiduous work in the Scottish PSC.

    I had put up links to his QT appearance and another commenter wrote of the JNF connection where you also see the names of Brown and Blair and also that of a one time Chief of the General Staff!, Lord Guthrie, often a speaker at the Herzliya gatherings.

  • RobG

    Mary, whilst I’m not disagreeing with the stated cause of death, a ‘major haemorrhage’ can also be the outcome of slitting your wrists or your throat, etc.

    It might be better to wait for a statement from the coroner, rather than the family. At the time of writing I can find no ‘official version’ of Charles Kennedy’s death. Since there’s been so much speculation about it, this seems a bit strange.

  • Miss Castello

    Villager @9:53pm: Mods, please take note:

    This has to be one of (if not THE most) disgusting comments I have ever seen on a reputable blog. It’s one thing to disagree, however, considering what Mary has endured health wise alone (without the constant bullying here) to resort to such utter filth (and to a lady of senior years) is beyond despicable.

  • RobG

    4 Jun, 2015 – 11:52 pm:

    “Of these three, (3) is what is happening. Busby thought that a prompt-critical explosion was most likely; thankfully that hasn’t happened. Ironic to say it, but the world has been lucky – so far. After this much time I doubt that any of the Fukushima units will go prompt-critical and explode, but there are plenty more reactors out there.”

    Clark, by ‘prompt critical’ I presume you mean that nuclear fission continues to take place after a meltdown?

    The manmade radioactive isotope, iodine 131, is used as a measure of recent nuclear fission, because it has a short half life of 8 days; but when it comes to half lifes you have to times it by at least ten: in otherwords, iodine 131 has largely degraded within 80 days, and so it’s an indicator of recent nuclear fission (by the way, iodine 131 breaks down into even more lethal isotopes, some of which last for millions of years, but I won’t get into that here). They have to use iodine 131 as the canary in the coalmine because there’s so much radioactive crap already in the environment from bomb tests, etc.

    Iodine 131 is universally accepted as an indicator of recent nuclear fission (within the last 80 days). The STUK radiation protection agency of Finland announced last month that iodine 131 had been detected in the Lapland area of northern Finland, and that I-131 also had been detected in Norway…

    Remember, the likes of Japan and the USA have all but blocked the public from their radiation monitoring since Fukushima began. Veterans Today has started posting rad counts in America on a weekly basis (50 cpm is ‘alert status’)…

    … although these official counts are for mostly beta radiation, with a bit of gamma rads thrown in here and there. There are no tests whatsoever for alpha radiation (that’s the really nasty stuff like plutonium).

    But getting back to iodine 131 (a mostly beta emmitter, which is a hallmark of ongoing fission) it’s been found in areas around Fukushima over the four years since the disaster began. I can only give a Japanese language link for this (I wonder why that is?)…

    In otherwords, not only do we face three full size commercial reactors in complete meltdown (and each of these reactors is three times bigger than unit No.4 at Chernobyl), but there’s also continuing, uncontrolled nuclear fission.

    As a result the Pacific Ocean is not so slowly dying.

  • RobG

    @Miss Castello
    5 Jun, 2015 – 8:19 pm

    It’s called the Government and Big Business trolls; that’s who these vermin represent, and it gives a small indicator of the complete low lifes who now inhabit government and big business.

    Something like a quarter of the electorate voted for these scum; albeit they were brainwashed by a completely lying, psycho, right wing media.

  • Miss Castello

    “It’s called the Government and Big Business trolls”

    No it’s not. It’s called bullying & abusing a seriously ill woman: not content at that, one of the pond life then resorts to adding filth to the mix. i.e. “Mary musturbating. Not a pretty sight!”


  • RobG

    Miss Costello, I agree that it’s totally sick. I would hazard a guess that it’s allowed on this blog (including all the usual pond life trolls) because it proves a point.

    So, you don’t believe you live in a police state..? (etc, etc).

    And the flip side of that is whether you believe anything the media tells you.

    Many readers here believe most of what Mary tells us, because she gives qualified links.

    The trolls never link to anything, except their own anus.

  • Villager

    Allow me to educate some of you:
    Some of the most prominent irrational thoughts in our lives happen when we deal in absolutes. What are absolutes? Words like “never” “always” everyone” “no one” and so on and so forth. Other examples are “must” “should” and “ought”. So Albert Ellis had quite a sense of humor. He coined the term musturbation to refer to when a person gets stuck in the “musts” of their lives. There are three main irrational thoughts which lead to musturbation:

    1) Everyone must think that I’m perfect or I will be worthless.

    2) Everybody must act the way I want them to act, and if they don’t, I will find that insufferable

    3) The universe must give me what I want and the way I want it, and if it doesn’t, I will find that insufferable’

    Why You Have To Stop Musturbating

  • Clark

    RobG, 5 Jun 8:25 pm:

    “Clark, by ‘prompt critical’ I presume you mean that nuclear fission continues to take place after a meltdown?”

    No, I mean that the melted Chernobyl core went prompt-critical and thereby blew itself to bits thus terminating the meltdown, whereas the Fukushima cores didn’t.

    I’ll comment again at yours later.

  • RobG

    9 Jun, 2015 – 8:38 pm

    Apologies that your post on my blog was put under moderation (I’ve no idea what was going on there, since you’ve had no trouble posting in the past). I’ve now rectified this and your post stands.

    A huge electrical storm in my neck of the woods this evening has all but wiped out internet connection, but I’ll try to reply to you tomorrow on my blog.

    I’d also like to try and get Craig to say something about Fukushima, because his blog is much more widely read than my own and an ensuing discussion will reach far more people.

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