Occasionally, something happens in public life that leaves you stroking your head. How can you be the only one not to share in the general emotion? The death of Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has had that reaction on me. I wonder, if I died, would people crawl out of the woodwork to praise me, people who did not have a good word for me in my lifetime? Is it wrong to “defame” the dead? Or is it wrong to engage in this horrible mawkish pretence that anyone who dies was an asset to the country?
Parliament–clearly a body that has spare time on its hands–has paused to hold tributes to Kennedy. One Lib Dem MP besmirched the dignity of Parliament by declaiming in the House that Kennedy’s 10-year-old son, Donald, should be “really proud of [his] Daddy”. But this man was no stateman. He was neither Churchill nor Thatcher. If he had worthwhile achievements to his name, I am not aware of them.
Having becoming leader of the Lib Dems, he was forced to resign in 2006 as a drunkard. His marriage failed as a result of the drink, and so the son, who seems to have been reinvented as a political prop, did not have a functional family, being brought up by his mother in the family home while Kennedy lived elsewhere. Should young Donald be proud of such a father?
As a Liberal Democrat, Charles Kennedy supported rule by an international bureaucracy based in Belgium. He backed detailed regulation of the economy by Westminster bureaucrats. He supported mass immigration, and controls on free speech, freedom of association and so on that flow from the creation of a multicultural society. He backed high taxation and high state spending.
In short, Kennedy was a not a liberal in the 19th-century meaning of the term, and was yet another tired supporter of state power and the long arm of the unaccountable civil service. For this, he was about to be “ennobled” and thus appointed to the House of Lords–quite an inappropriate reaction to a failed politician’s defeat at the polls.
Kennedy was not all bad–nobody is–and did oppose the Iraq War in a rare display of good political judgement. However, he was not a man who deserved Parliamentary plaudits and not a husband, son or father of whom anyone could be proud. Do we have to take part in the pretence that he was one of our greatest politicians ever?