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Today we have lost a true liberal and we are all the poorer for it

Catherine Bearder comments on the sudden and tragic loss of former Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy.

key_Charles_Kennedy1.jpgA few weeks ago we woke to the dreadful news of the defeat of so many good friends including those long-term stalwarts of Liberal Democracy, Charles Kennedy and Simon Hughes. We thought news like this comes rarely. But this morning we woke to even more dreadful news, that of the death of Charles Kennedy. How could this be? He was on my list of people to ring, I knew he was keen to play a role in the forthcoming EU referendum campaign and I wanted to touch base and talk about how we could work together. 

The loss of Charles will be felt most keenly by his son and family, and to them I send my heartfelt condolences. But his loss will also be felt by his wider family, that of the Liberal Democrats.  He was there at the birth of our party, in fact without him it might have been a completely different one.  He was there with so many of us as our leader as we fought our council seats, campaigns and elections up and down the country. I campaigned with him many times in Oxford. On the Cowley Road we stopped the traffic so large were the crowds, after which Charles spent a long time with the disabled son of a supporter despite all the stress and demands of a packed day.

He was a steadfast supporter of our internationalism and the role that the UK plays in the world.  It was this that led him to take his stand against the illegal war in Iraq. When everyone was advising him to support the then Blair administration he stood firm, insisting that this war was unjust and had no legal basis. As a Lib Dem it was one of my proudest moments.

His impassioned support for the European Union was also rock solid. As he said last year: "We Europeans are stronger when we stand together."

The party and the country lost a great MP in May, but today we have all lost a true liberal, a friend, a wit and a European champion. We are all the poorer for it.

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