Charles Kennedy

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Charles Kennedy, current leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party
Charles Kennedy, current leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party

The Right Honourable Charles Peter Kennedy (born 25 November 1959) is a British politician, who has been leader of the Liberal Democrats (the third largest political party in the United Kingdom) since 1999.


Early life

Born in Inverness, Scotland, Charles Kennedy was educated at Lochaber High School and went on to study for a Masters Degree in Politics and Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. It was at university that he became politically active, he was a member of the Dialectical Society (a debating club) but he was not a member of the Labour Club. He was elected president of Glasgow University Union and won the British Observer Mace university debating award. GUU was the last all-male student union in the world; during his time as president Kennedy opposed admitting women as members, but conceded defeat under pressure from the University Court. Shortly after he joined the Social Democrats (SDP).

Upon graduation in 1982 he went to work for BBC Highland as a journalist, and later received a Fulbright Fellowship allowing him to carry out research at Indiana University in the United States, on the rhetoric of Roy Jenkins.

Political career

While studying in America he also received the SDP nomination for the Scottish seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye, which he went on to win in 1983, becoming the youngest sitting member of parliament. He has retained the seat and its successor Ross, Skye and Inverness West at five subsequent general elections; he is the Liberal Democrats' MP for the seat which replaced it in 2005: Ross, Skye and Lochaber

In the late 1980s the SDP and the Liberal Party, which had been co-operating in the SDP-Liberal Alliance, merged to form the Social and Liberal Democratic Party, later renamed the Liberal Democrats. Kennedy was one of only five SDP MPs to support the merge.

Kennedy served as a frontbencher for the Lib Dems in a variety of posts, including social security, agriculture and rural affairs, health, Scotland and Europe. He was also party president for four years, between 1990 and 1994.


On August 9, 1999 Charles Kennedy was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats after the retirement of Paddy Ashdown; he beat Jackie Ballard, Malcolm Bruce, Simon Hughes and David Rendel.

Kennedy's style of leadership is somewhat different from Ashdown's, being regarded as more conversational and "laid back". Although he has been dismissed as "Chatshow Charlie" by some observers, as a result of his appearances on the satirical panel game Have I Got News For You, opinion polls have shown him to be positively regarded as a party leader and potential Prime Minister by a significant fraction of the British electorate.

Kennedy maintains the long standing aspiration for his party to break through to the status of official opposition. In his first major campaign, the 2001 general election, the Liberal Democrats improved their share of the vote to 18.3%, 1.5% more than in the 1997 election. Although this is a smaller share than the 25.4% the SDP/Liberal Alliance achieved in 1983, the Lib Dems won 52 seats compared to the Alliance's 23. In the 2005 election his party gained 62 seats, with 22.0% of the overall vote (excluding the posponed vote in South Staffordshire).

Kennedy, along with his "election guru" Lord Rennard, has focussed the Lib Dems' regional campaigning in such a way as to turn a lower level of national support into a greater number of Parliamentary seats. He extended this strategy at the 2005 general election targeting the seats held by the most senior and/or highly regarded Conservative MPs but failed to supplant the Conservatives as official opposition. At the same time, the Lib Dems also hoped to capture marginal Labour seats, attracting Labour voters (particularly Muslim voters) who were dissatisfied because of the invasion of Iraq; the party succeded with this tactic in by-elections, taking Brent East and Leicester South from Labour.

Personal life

In July 2002, Charles Kennedy married Sarah Gurling, the sister of his best friend, James Gurling. [1] (

Reports of Kennedy's ill-health in 2003 at the time of crucial debates on Iraq and the budget were linked to mostly unfounded allegations of alcoholism.

Sarah gave birth to their first child, Donald James Kennedy, at 12:14am April 12 2005, at St Thomas' Hospital, London. Kennedy had been due to launch his party's manifesto for the General Election, which was subsequently delayed, with Sir Menzies Campbell taking temporary charge as acting leader and covering Kennedy's campaign duties. During the manifesto launch on his first day back on the campaign trail after the birth, Kennedy struggled to remember the details of a key policy (replacing the Council Tax with a Local Income Tax) at an early morning press conference, which he later blamed on a lack of sleep due to his new child.

See also


External links

Preceded by:
Paddy Ashdown
Leader of the British Liberal Democrats
Succeeded by:
Current Incumbent

Template:End boxde:Charles Kennedy sv:Charles Kennedy


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