Charles Kennedy on Iraq, Scotland and the need for a friendlier politics

In memory of Charles Kennedy, we look back at some of his most memorable comments


We were saddened to hear this morning of the untimely death of Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader who has passed away at the age of 55.

Known for his good humour and dislike of partisan politics, Kennedy will be perhaps best remembered as one of the most vociferous opponents of the Iraq war. Former deputy prime minister John Prescott said today:

“He proved to be right on Iraq. History will be as kind to him as he was to others.”

Here, in memory of Charles Kennedy, we look back at his politics and the comments he will be remembered for:

On the Iraq War

Kennedy believed the Iraq venture was led by ‘charlatans and chancers’:

“Never again must this country be sold an incomplete and false prospectus as a basis for unilateral military action without the sanction of the United Nations.”

He was highly critical of Tony Blair, especially his relationship with George Bush:

“You cannot move on, when the prime minister remains in denial.

“You can’t move on when people are dying every day. And you cannot move on when our British troops are still in the firing line.

“The prime minister’s pride should not get in the way of finding a solution for the people of Iraq.

“His blind support for George Bush is continuing to cost lives – Iraqi citizens and coalition soldiers.”

On the coalition:

Kennedy voted against Nick Clegg’s decision to enter a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010:

“Like many others I was keen to explore the possibilities of a so-called “progressive coalition”, despite all the obvious difficulties and drawbacks.

“It remains a matter of profound disappointment that there was insufficient reciprocal will within the Labour party – and they should not be allowed to pose in opposition purity as a result.”

On Scottish devolution

After leading the ‘Better Together’ campaign for the Lib Dems, Kennedy welcomed the referendum result:

“Now the next welcome tasks begins – more power to Scotland and the Highlands within a reforming UK.

“We will need to put the referendum differences behind us and work together for a common and agreed future.

“Let us – Yes and No voters alike – go forward in constructive and friendly spirit together.”

On the SNP

Critical of their attempts to reopen the independence campaign, Kennedy was no fan of the SNP:

“We are seeing [centralisation] over fire and police services, we have previously experienced it over the Crofting Commission and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

“Even Mrs Thatcher, at the peak of her powers, would have baulked at such political audacity.”

On disagreement:

Speaking about the tuition fee hike, Kennedy said:

” I cast no aspersions whatsoever on the conclusions arrived at by any others.

“These are testing decisions being taken against an extremely difficult economic backdrop; it is incumbent upon us all to recognise the sincerity of the motives among those who arrive at a different outcome.”

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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