Charles Kennedy, UK politician who opposed Iraq war dies

Charles Kennedy, UK politician who opposed Iraq war dies
Former leader of Liberal Democratic party and a fierce opponent of the invasion of Iraq Charles Kennedy has died suddenly aged 55, his family said Tuesday.
2 min read
02 June, 2015
Charles Kennedy was a genuinely popular British politician [Getty]

Charles Kennedy was a rare thing, a genuinely popular British politician, and brought his Liberal Democrat party record success before his leadership was cut short by alcoholism. 

His death at 55 brought tributes Tuesday from across politics and beyond for a man whose wit and warmth made him stand out from the pack. 

Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Kennedy's death "robs Britain of one of the most gifted politicians of his generation."   

Kennedy's family said in a statement that he died Monday at his home in the Scottish Highlands. They did not reveal the cause of death and said a post-mortem would be conducted. Police said Kennedy's death did not appear suspicious.

Nicknamed "Chat-show Charlie," because of his many television appearances, Kennedy was known for gregariousness and a light-hearted, common touch.

He was elected to Parliament at 23 in 1983, and succeeded Paddy Ashdown as leader of the center-left party in 1999.

Under his leadership, the Liberal Democrats were the only major party to oppose the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Kennedy predicted that the legacy of the war would haunt then-Prime Minister Tony Blair of the Labour Party, saying in 2006 that "on the political tombstone of this prime minister will be one word — Iraq." 

In the 2005 election, the Liberal Democrats won 62 seats in the House of Commons, the party's best result for 80 years.

Kennedy's fondness for a drink had long been the source of political gossip. When confronted by a television expose about his drinking, Kennedy tried to hold on to the leadership but failed. He resigned in 2006.

He was hardly the first British politician with an alcohol problem. Parliament's long hours and subsidized bars have long indulged a culture of heavy drinking.  But Kennedy was among the first publicly to acknowledge alcoholism.

Kennedy remained a popular lawmaker and in 2010 he voted against having the Liberal Democrats enter a coalition government with David Cameron's Conservatives — to no avail. 

Voters in Britain's general election last month punished the Liberal Democrats for that decision, reducing the party to just eight of the 650 seats in Parliament. Kennedy was among those who lost. 

Kennedy is survived by his ex-wife, Sarah Gurling, and their 10-year-old son.