The late Charles Kennedy and Andrew George.
Commenting on the tragic news this morning of the death of his friend Charles Kennedy, former Private Parliamentary Secretary, Andrew George, paid tribute:
“Charles was an outstanding politician. It wasn’t just his evident wit, charm, brilliant debating skills and intelligence but his strong and unshakeable principles, his commitment to social justice and his exceptional political judgement which set him apart from others.
“Coming, as do I, from a region in stark contrast to the Westminster village in which we had to ply our trade, Charles never wanted to shake off the impression of being an ‘outsider’. He was unpretentious and had a natural talent at pricking the pomposity of the overblown.
“Never embittered and always generous, he had an inner core of tremendous strength and resolve to fight battles on behalf of others and the values which drew him into politics.
“For such a gregarious and popular man, he had remarkable humility and was naturally shy; though he became the life and soul of any event he attended. He always lifted everyone’s spirits and took a genuine interest in others.
“My memories of Charles are many. I particularly remember the incredible strength and foresight he showed as Leader of the Party when he took the firm decision not to support the war in Iraq. He had given me the privilege of being his Private Parliamentary Secretary. So I worked with him at close quarters through this event. Many didn’t fully recognise just how much pressure there was on Charles to conform to the convention of political parties coming together at times of impending war to support the Government. Charles showed tremendous political judgement, strength of character and foresight in opposing the Iraq war.
“I also remember his kindness and generosity. After having just received the devastating news of the death of my eldest brother in May 2001, I was walking to catch a plane to get back to Cornwall from Gatwick. Charles spotted me in a distraught state while he was about to board his own flight to Inverness. He spoke to his airline staff and delayed the plane so that he could spend time consoling me.
“Charles was exceptional, charming, talented and considerate. He will be much missed by us all.”