Sunday 28 June 2015

Tatchell speaks up for Northern Ireland

Peter Tatchell yesterday highlighted at Pride in London that the LGBT people in Northern Ireland are being denied the same rights and opportunities enjoyed elsewhere in the Union. He urged the people of the UK to stand in solidarity.

Here is him being interviewed about the issues.

President Obama on Friday also said that the US Supreme Court ruling ended the patchwork of equality for LGBT people in his great nation. Northern Ireland is now becoming that little patch that needs to be added to the quilt of Western equality.

Friday 26 June 2015

I want to be proud of what we couldn't do in Government

Yes as Liberal Democrats we now have a record in Government nationally. We have to admit there are some things that as the junior partner of that Government we were unable to prevent, but there were other things that without us would not have been achieved.

However, that is our record in Government and enough people will have written or have yet to write about those achievements. What I want us as Liberal Democrats to focus on are the things from our 2010 manifesto that we were unable to achieve in Government because the conservatives would not want us to.

Why should I do that?

Simple the reason is it shows that we are our own party, not one that can be absorbed into either the Conservatives or Labour, or even fit nicely in alongside the Greens. Sure there are components of what we as Liberal Democrats stand for that all three of those parties listed can agree with and that goes for the SNP and Plaid Cymru as well, there are even elements that Euroscpetic UKIP can agree with Europhile Lib Dems over. But the raison d'être that makes Liberal Democrats tick is the thing that would infuriate any of the other parties.

It is the things that we couldn't get into a programme of Government with the Conservatives that make us not Conservative poodles. The manifesto we decided to put out for the last election was lacking in the conviction, as many radical ideas and a clear liberal agenda of those in the past. We were positioning for Government not position for liberalism.

That is what I want our party to be proud of our policies that other parties want to shy away from. Those policies that are based on need, science, making society fairer for all not one group or another. Only the Liberal Democrats can look past the demands of the richest that the Tories bow to, or the Unions that Labour still kow-tow to no matter how much they claim to have changed. We do however stand up for business and the workers. Realising that one needs the other and vice versa but that there should be opportunity for everyone to get on with their life unencumbered by too many constraints.

When looking at who to lead us forwards as a party while both candidates are truly liberals, I want the one whose prime objective is to make us liberal first and as a result give us a voice in Government, not aim for a voice in Government as the prime goal diluting our liberalism to appeal to both Tories and Labour.

In recent days I've seen too many of the Normtroopers say that they want to be led back into Government without any mention of liberalism. If that is your aim join the Tories or Labour and have an easy ride into Government. The reason I got into politics was to stand up for liberal values. Looking at what the current Government is doing on welfare, refusing to accept refugees who risk their lives from resettling here, accelerating removing the wind farm subsidy, restoring the snoopers charter and forgetting the "Northern Powerhouse" when it comes to trains shows that there needs to be a liberal voice.

That liberal voice needs to appeal to the many people who basically share our liberal values. That liberal voice needs to reach out to them so that local candidates and activists can get alongside those people on the doorsteps and harness that renewed enthusiasm for our party. That voice needs to connect to the people about the things on their hearts.

I know that voice in the one that Tim Farron can give our party and make us strong again. Strong in our values, strong in our liberalism and as a result strong in our council wards, devolved Governments and Westminster.

Saturday 13 June 2015

March for Equality

Today the sun shone on least I assume it did from the pictures I have seen and the fact that it shone in Bangor where I was.

"Why is this significant?" you may ask. Well seeing as today thousands took part in a march for equality, seeking to bring about marriage equality in the only part of the United Kingdom, and indeed now the only small part of the island of Ireland that does not recognise same-sex marriages. So the fact that it stayed dry meant that some politicians meteorology skills are little off, despite some of them claiming that last year's soggy Belfast Pride proved the opposite.

The march was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Amnesty International and the Rainbow Project. The age ranged from school children to pensioners. They were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight, Catholic and Protestant or neither. The Belfast Telegraph says that 20,000 took to the streets

One of the platform speakers Northern Irish novelist Glenn Patterson said:

"We will never forsake the blue skies of Ulster for the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet skies of the Irish Republic.
"We are going to bring them here."
So the message is that while the Presbyterian Church in Ireland boycotts the Church of Scotland for it acceptance of gay ministers and deacons in same-sex marriages, and the unionist parties continue to ignore legal UK marriages in the name of pick 'n' mix unionism, the people will continue to march, to shout out for equality and the same recognition that their fellow British or Irish citizens have.

Just as Gays and Lesbians Support the Miners 30 years ago lead to the coal unions walking at the front of London Pride, now the Unions are standing up for LGBT+ rights. While it is a shame that commercialism means that the 30th anniversary of that coming together will be in the middle not front of London Pride I have to thank the Trade Unions here in standing with the LGBT+ community here.

I was not able to be there, sadly being a gay sportsman in a summer team sport I was otherwise engaged in playing for my team in the second division of our league in a tough match against the leaders. As it came down to a handful of shots to determine who would take the three match points on top of the two each of us got for our winning rinks I'm sure my gay card won't be rescinded.

Sunday 7 June 2015

LGBT* in Ukip and Pride

There is a lot of hot debate going on at the moment about the decision of Pride London to reject LGBT* in UKIP application to march as a group this month in the parade. The Board of Pride London are citing "secuirty issues" as the reason for this rejection, something Peter Tatchell calls a "cop-out" which seems somewhat ironic as the same man had called for UKIP's exclusion mere days earlier.

Tatchell himself is appearing confused in his stance to LGBT* in Ukip's participation and I suspect that London Prides talk of direct action against the parade if they allowed the Ukip group to take part have led to similar confusion within LGBTory, LGBT Labour, LGBT+ Lib Dems and LGBTIQ Greens from taking an official position are they are not aware of the facts that Pride are stating are the security issues. With rumours of BME or immigrant groups threatening the action it is uncertain where the facts lie.

Therefore this is my personal opinion and not in any other capacity.

I think LGBT* within UKIP should be allowed to march in the London Pride Parade.

As for security fears when Pride first started out there were always security fears. In Eastern Europe and Africa there still are when a Pride march takes place. So in that that essence Peter Tatchell is right, it is a cop-out.

However, unlike Tatchell and others I do not think we should tar the LGBT+ representative group within any political party or organisation with the expressed view of the majority within that organisation. After all we have faith groups that are working hard within their groups who oppose same-sex marriage, actively campaign against it and all LGBT+ equality measures. These were all reason that Tatchell noted in his reasons to ban LGBT* within UKIP from marching.

I'm not sure when the predecessors of LGBTory, TORCHE (Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality) or CGHE (Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality) first marched in London Pride but I suspect that it was probably during the time that the party policy was in favour of Section 28 and opposed to civil unions for LGBT people and other LGBT equality measures that are now in place. There were probably also concerns of how others within LGBT+ circles would react to the Conservatives marching in their midst at that time.

I would be ashamed if the security measures were a smokescreen from the Board of London Pride to give in the bullying tactics of some within the LGBT community to petition against the inclusion of LGBT* within UKIP from participating, and that includes high profile opponents to their participation like Tatchell. I would also be ashamed if any LGBT group threatens the safety of Pride because other LGBT people and supportive friends are participating because they disagree with the certain aspects of the politics of the group then shame on them.

I would love there to be an LGBT unionist presence at a Belfast Pride soon. Currently all three of the unionist parties in Northern Ireland with MLAs DUP, UUP and TUV have fair from exemplary LGBT voting records but there are unionist party members and supporters who are LGBT are lobbying those MLAs to change just as LGBT* within UKIP are doing to those politicians and candidates in their own party who are far from LGBT supportive and even overtly anti-LGBT. The LGBT and Pride community should be supporting such groups seeking change not excluding them from our parade.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Who's debating this merger except the Independent?

Today the Independent have a comment piece about the reignited debate of a Labour/Lib Dem merger. But where is this debate/

Firstly as a party member for 27 years I am not aware there ever was a debate of a merger, there was talk of a centre left coalition with Labour ahead of 1997, but coalition is not merger, it is two parties with somewhat similar outlooks working together after contesting seats on their own accord to be an effective majority (like what ended up happening from 2010-15).

Secondly as a someone active in quite a lot of internal forums both with activists and candidates (something I have been in the last three elections) I have heard no buzz about a merger with Labour, even from my fellow social liberals. Instead the talk is all about returning to our own identity now that we are out of coalition, standing up for Liberal values not trying to position ourselves as being able to work with Labour or Conservatves simply for the sake of coalition but to stand up of Liberals first and foremost.

With 25% of the party membership coming to us after the general election we are growing fast, and those new and enthusiastic members are welcome and have come to us because of what we are, they haven't joined Labour. This is just like those of us who are social liberal who remained in the party since entering coalition did not run off and join them either (though I admit that some did).

We owe it to the 17,000 new Liberal Democrats as well as the 44,000 who remained with us to stand up for our liberal values as laid our in the preamble to our constitution. These are liberal values and how we express them in practice is down to conference. We are Liberal Democrats, not Labour, not Conservatives be prepares to hear us roar again.

Friday 5 June 2015

Death of a War Poet: Walter Lyon 8 May 1915

I apologise that during the General Election I missed three centenaries of war poets. These will now appear on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Friday of this week.

Walter Scott Stuart Lyon was one of five sons of Walter and Isabella Lyon of Tantallon Lodge, North Berwick. He was born on 1 October 1886. He went to Haileybury, before going up to Balliol College, Oxford to study classics.

He volunteered for the 9th Battallion Royal Scots before the war being appointed as a second Lieutenant on 14 December 1909, while at the same time undergoing his law training in Edinburgh. He graduated in law in 1912 and was admitted as a Scottish Advocated later in the same year on Lieutenant on 17th December in the same year.

At the outbreak of war he was appointed staff-captain to the Lothian Brigade but rejoined his battalion in early 1915. In February 1915 Lieutenant Lyon found himself in the terraces near Glencose Wood, Ypres. After this first experience in the line he wrote two poems Easter at Ypres and Lines Written in a Fire Trench. A couple of weeks after this during the fiercest fighting of the second battle of Ypres he wrote two more On a Grave in a Trench and I Tracked a Dead Man Down a Trench.

On 23rd April 1915 he was mentioned in dispatches by Major John Ewing:

"C Company had come to a halt behind a hedge which was so thickly girt with barbed wire that men could not break through without great labour. Noticing this, Lieutenant Lyon very cooly stood up and, taking out his wire-cutters, began to make gaps. Machine-guns played with him, but withouy any sign of haste he proceeded with his task, never stopping until he had the rendered the hedge penetrable."

In May he was located in dugouts in Potijze Woods near the Menin Road about 200 yards from the firing line. On the 8th May the shelling was so fierce that trees were uprooted and tops sliced by shrapnel. Many men died in the onslaught and like Lyon many had not known grave.

A book of his poems Easter at Ypres 1915 and other poems was published in 1916 a mixture of poems he had written before the war plus the four mentioned here and others from the war period.

Of his brothers two of the others were killed in the war and a third died while a student at Haileybury.

I tracked a dead man down a trench

I tracked a dead man down a trench,
I knew not he was dead.&nbsp
They told me he had gone that way,
And there his foot-marks led.
The trench was long and close and curved,
It seemed without an end;
And as I threaded each new bay

I thought to see my friend.
At last I saw his back. He crouched
As still as still could be,
And when I called his name aloud
He did not answer me.

The floor-way of the trench was wet
Where he was crouching dead;
The water of the pool was brown,
And round him it was red.

I stole up softly where he stayed
With head hung down all slack,
And on his shoulders laid my hands
And drew him gently back.

And then, as I had guessed, I saw
His head, and how the crown -
I saw then why he crouched so still,
And why his head hung down.

Walter Scott Stuart Lyon 1 October 1886 North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland  - 8 May 1915 Potijze Woods, Near Ypres, Belgium

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Proud to be supporting Tim Farron for leader

On the evening after the long night of the sgian dubhs I had the clarity to write about how Liberal Democrats can take the offensive on to 2020. I therefore admit that I was already looking for the general to lead us into the sound of gunfire that was still resounding in the ears of all our candidates, activists and supporters (as some used more that merely sgian dubhs).

The fact of course was that that blog post on the Friday after polling day got picked up by BBC Tees (indeed I have now been on twice since polling day) to talk about the Lib Dem Fight Back before it was really a hashtag.

Therefore on the Monday after the General Election I found myself being interviewed by Neil Green about what was happening in our party. The surge in membership, the attitude in the party and who might be the candidates in a leadership contest. Then he asked the question, who would I be supporting.

The answer was one I probably was aware of how I'd respond on that Friday. It certainly was by the following day as I'd sent an email to Tim Farron urging him to stand and also promising my support. The afternoon as I listened to the tributes in the commons I became more and more certain that I was right.

Yesterday on BBC Tees I had to talk about Charles Kennedy, so I know the emotions that those who spoke in the commons felt as they spoke, even more so those who addressed their comments to young Donald in the gallery. But I also talked about the highlights of Charles's leadership which led me to think of all the stuff he had done for the party before the big Iraq rally. The grounding was already in place ahead of the 2001 election and working towards 2005. I was ready to stand up above the parapet and be a candidate for our party before Iraq became an issue because of the passion that Charles showed for liberalism.

Therefore I know what we need know as we face the fight back, the rebuilding, the march towards the gunfire to say we ain't dead. We need someone able to enthuse that passion for liberal values, able to communicate with the established activists who are hurting, the new ones full or enthusiasm and the general public who we want to vote for us in council and devolved elections before we get to 2020.

Both Norman and Tim are Liberals to the heart, but I believe that Tim stands head and shoulders above as the one who can reach out to the voters to ensure them our values are the same as in 2010, 2005 or 2001. He is also the one who has been engaging with many of us who are stalwarts of the party who have been hurting and it seems engaging with the new members who now are over 25% of the members.

I'm backing Tim to be the leader to kick start carry on the Lib Dem fight back. I'm convinced that as I pound the streets, tap the keys and face the public or journalists that he'll be speaking the liberalism that will inspire, encourage and spark voters to turn to us again. Something that will be enhanced by the troops he is respecting, inspiring and walking alongside every step of the way.

I can't wait until I have the ballot in my hand, to give that promised support to Tim.

Death of a War Poet: Rupert Brooke 23 April 1915

I apologise that during the General Election I missed three centenaries of war poets. These will now appear on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Rupert Brooke is one of the best known of the English War Poets, not just amongst those who died but also those who survived.

He was born in Rugby on the 3rd August 1887 the second of Rugby School schoolmaster William Parker Brooke. He travelled Europe and wrote a thesis John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama which earned him a place at King's College, Cambridge to read Classics. While up at Cambridge he became a member of the Cambridge Apostles, was elected President of the Cambridge University Fabian Society and formed the Marlowe Society drama club.

He made friends with the Bloomsbury group of writers some admired his talent, others his boyish good looks, which had allegedly prompted the Irish poet W.B. Yeats to describe him as the "handsomest young man in England". But he was also part of other literary groups the Georgian Poets and the Dymock Group. He also spent some time from 1910 until the outbreak of war renting rooms in the Old Vicarage, Grantchester (now the home of Jeffrey Archer).

He published his first volume of poetry Poems in 1911. Along with his friend Edward Marsh the following year he compiled an anthology Georgian Poetry 1911-12. Marsh was to draw another friend Winston Churchill to the literary talent of his friend Brooke. Just before he died his final volume of poems in his lifetime 1914, and Other Poems (1915) was published. It was based on his five sonnets Peace, Safety, The Dead, The Dead, The Soldier which formed his rally cry to the nation.

In 1912 he suffered what a Harley Street doctor described as a "severe mental breakdown", following three serious relationship breakdowns in the previous five years with the actress Cathleen Nesbitt, his engagement to Noël Olivier and Katherine Laird Cox. But he was widely travelled having spent time in Munich in 1911 to improve his German, and two further visits before the outbreak of war. But he also travelled to USA, Canada and the South Pacific for a year from May 1913. His stay in Tahiti produced some of his best poetry as well as allegedly a daughter with a local woman Taatamata.

Shortly after his return from his trip War was declared, Brooke used his friendship with Churchill to be granted a commission into a new unit of the Royal Naval Division an amphibious unit. He took part in the Antwerp Expedition in October 1914. In February 1915 he set sail with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Froce bound for Gallipoli. However, Brooke developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He died at 4:46pm on St George's Day, 23 April 1915, which of course is also Shakespeare's birthday on a hospital ship moored in a bay of the Greek Island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea. The expeditionary force had orders to set sail immediately so the Cambridge classics graduate was buried in an olive grove on the island at 11pm.

At his graveside were his close friend William Denis Browne the composer, pianist and music critic (who would die on 4 June at Gallipoli),  fellow poet Patrick Shaw-Stewart (who will feature later in this series) and the Prime Minister's son Arthur Asquith who would be wounded out of action having his leg amputate in January 1918 after being wounded on 17 December 1917 with the rank of Brigadier-General.

His younger brother 2nd Lt. William Alfred Cotterill Brooke of the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) was to be killed in action near Le Rutoire Farm, France on 14th June 1915, he had only joined his Battalion in France on 25 May.

Rupert Chawner Brooke 3 Aug 1887 Rugby, Warwickshire, England - 23 Apr 1915 Skyros, GreeceSee also: The other poets who died in the war.

Rather than quote his 1914 poems here are two more that sum up the war. The second a fragment was written in the final week of his life.

The Funeral of Youth: Threnody

The day that YOUTH had died,
There came to his grave-side,
In decent mourning, from the country's ends,
Those scatter'd friends
Who had lived the boon companions of his prime,
And laughed with him and sung with him and wasted,
In feast and wine and many-crown'd carouse,
The days and nights and dawnings of the time
When YOUTH kept open house,
Nor left untasted
Aught of his high emprise and ventures dear,
No quest of his unshar'd --
All these, with loitering feet and sad head bar'd,
Followed their old friend's bier.
FOLLY went first,
With muffled bells and coxcomb still revers'd;
And after trod the bearers, hat in hand --
LAUGHTER, most hoarse, and Captain PRIDE with tanned
And martial face all grim, and fussy JOY,
Who had to catch a train, and LUST, poor, snivelling boy;
These bore the dear departed.
Behind them, broken-hearted,
Came GRIEF, so noisy a widow, that all said,
"Had he but wed
Her elder sister SORROW, in her stead!"
And by her, trying to soothe her all the time,
The fatherless children, COLOUR, TUNE, and RHYME
(The sweet lad RHYME), ran all-uncomprehending.
Then, at the way's sad ending,
Round the raw grave they stay'd. Old WISDOM read,
In mumbling tone, the Service for the Dead.
There stood ROMANCE,
The furrowing tears had mark'd her rouged cheek;
Poor old CONCEIT, his wonder unassuaged;
And shabby, ill-dress'd GENEROSITY;
And ARGUMENT, too full of woe to speak;
PASSION, grown portly, something middle-aged;
And FRIENDSHIP -- not a minute older, she;
IMPATIENCE, ever taking out his watch;
FAITH, who was deaf, and had to lean, to catch
Old WISDOM's endless drone.
BEAUTY was there,
Pale in her black; dry-eyed; she stood alone.
Poor maz'd IMAGINATION; FANCY wild;
ARDOUR, the sunlight on his greying hair;
CONTENTMENT, who had known YOUTH as a child
And never seen him since. And SPRING came too,
Dancing over the tombs, and brought him flowers --
She did not stay for long.
And TRUTH, and GRACE, and all the merry crew,
The laughing WINDS and RIVERS, and lithe HOURS;
And HOPE, the dewy-eyed; and sorrowing SONG; --
Yes, with much woe and mourning general,
At dead YOUTH's funeral,
Even these were met once more together, all,
Who erst the fair and living YOUTH did know;
All, except only LOVE. LOVE had died long ago.


I strayed about the deck, an hour, to-night
Under a cloudy moonless sky; and peeped
In at the windows, watched my friends at table,
Or playing cards, or standing in the doorway,
Or coming out into the darkness. Still

No one could see me.

                                     I would have thought of them
-Heedless, within a week of battle - in pity,
Pride in their strength and in the weight and firmness
And link'd beauty of bodies, and pity that
This gay machine of splendour 'ld soon be broken,
Thought little of, pashed, scattered ...

                                                          Only, always,

I could but see them - against the lamplights - pass
Like coloured shadows, thinner than filmy glass,
Slight bubble, fainter than the wave's faint light,
That broke to phosphorus out in the night,
Perishing things and strange ghosts - soon to die
To other ghosts - this one, or that, or I.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Death of a War Poet: Louis Pergaud 8 April 1915

I apologise that during the General Election I missed three centenaries of war poets. These will now appear on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Louis Pergaud was born on the 22 January 1882 in Belmont, in the Doubs department, of the Franche-Compte Region of France. His father was a school master, and Louis excelled at school earning scholarships which enabled him to continue at school completing his studies at the École Normale in Besançon.

He married his first wife in 1903 after completing a year of military service and resumed teaching as Durnes which he had done for a year before carrying out his year in the 35th Infantry. In 1905 he transferred to Landresse and took his wife with him, but he left both in 1907 and headed to Paris. Here he joined fellow poet, long-time friend and inspiration Leon Deubel hoping to achieve his literary dream.

Before he had left for Paris he had published the first of his two collections of poetry, L'Aube was published in 1904. A second collection L'Herbe d'Anvil followed in 1908. In 1910 his first selection of short stories De Goupil à Margot was published, a second collection La Revanche du Corbeau followed the following year.

However, it was his first novel La Guerre des boutons (1912) in which a play war between small boys in two neighbouring villages, in which the losers have their bottons removed as trophies before being sent home, is the most reflective of the years to come. It becomes more sinister as time goes by and the distinction of play and real violence between the boys becomes more blurred. He published a second novel Le Roman de Miraut in 1913.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 the pacifist writer was conscripted into the French army having been placed on the active reserve list following his national service 12 years before. Thus he was involved in the Battle of Lorraine during the German invasion of his homeland France and subsequently on the Western Front. On the 7th April 1915 his regiment attacked German lines near Fresnes-en-Woëvre, Lorraine. He was shot and wounded and fell on barbed wire becoming trapped. Several hours later German soldiers rescued him and other surviving wounded and he was transported to a field hospital behind the German lines. The morning after he was wounded and rescued a French artillery barrage destroyed the hospital killing Pergaud and others.

His novel La Guerre des boutons remains on the French High School Curriculum, has been filmed five times four of them French (1936, 1962, 2011 twice) and once Irish (1994) with the villages revisited as Ballydowse and Carrickdowse. The French versions make it against the backdrop of the Algerian War in 1936 and one of the 2011 versions in occupied France during WWII.

Louis Pergaud 22 January 1882 Belmont, Doubs, France - 8 April 1915 near Fresnes-en-Woëvre, Lorraine, FranceSee also: The other poets who died in the war.

Charles Kennedy 1959 - 2015

Just over 10 years ago on the 4th May 2005 I was standing in the ground of the Presontonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh in my suit and tie, just inside a fenced off area it was nearing 6:30pm. I wasn't alone so were all the other Liberal Democrat candidates in the Lothian region, although Marilyn McLaren the candidate for Edinburgh South was the sole one of us not wearing a tie.

Charles surrounded by those 2005 MPs
The reason was we were waiting for the leader of the party to finish his eve of poll press engagements before he, his wife Sarah and newly born son Donald boarded a helicopter to fly to Inverness ready for polling day the following day. We were saying amongst ourselves that as we walked the family to the helicopter that we should try our best not to look like that scene from Reservoir Dogs.
Sadly at about 7:15am the following morning I learnt from one of our supporters outside a polling station that her husband thought that is what we looked like anyway. Something I then had to explain to Fiona Hyslop MSP who was standing beside me at the time. But by the end of that day we had news MPs Tim Farron in Westmorland and Lonsdale, Mark Williams in Ceredigion and Greg Mulholland in Leeds North West; also Nick Clegg had taken over in Sheffield Hallam from Richard Allen. In other words half of the current parliamentary party was first elected into that total of 62 MPs ten years ago.

Me and Charles from 2005
When I joined the party in 1988 Charles had already been an MP for five years for the former sear of Ross, Cromarty and Skye. He had in 1983 been the shock winner for the SDP against the Conservative Hamish Gray who had held the seat of Ross and Cromarty since 1970, by 1,704 votes. The majority of the seat had been the former Conservatives with only a part of Russell Johnston's seat of Inverness coming into it. He became the baby of the house upon his election and never completed the PhD he was studying for at the time at Indiana University on a Fulbright Scholarship.

From 1997-2005 it would become Ross, Skye and Inverness West, before then becoming the seat of Ross, Skye and Lochaber which he was to hold through 7 Parliaments before losing it to Ian Blackford of the SNP earlier this month.

In the run up to the 2005 election he had led the party's opposition to the war in Iraq, challenging Tony Blair on his dodgy dossier numerous times during PMQs

From 1991-94 he served as President of the Liberal Democrats, before in 1999 taking over as leader when Paddy Ashdown stepped down. He led us through the 2001 and 2005 elections  but there was growing speculation that he had an alcohol problem from missing key speeches in the commons to looking considerably sweaty and confused at other speeches and public appearances. It came to a hear in early January 2006 when ITN told him they were going to report that he had been receiving treatment for alcoholism. On the Saturday evening a letter was circulating around his MPs calling for him to resign immediately and my initial support of the man and his problem led me to write this when I returned home in the small hours. Though this didn't stop BBC Scotland calling me on the Sunday morning to see if I would speak in support of Charles the following morning, but that was superseded by news that he himself would be holding a press conference. It was there that he announced his resignation and that, unlike he had said earlier in the week, he would not be seeking the support of the party in the leadership election he had called.

He returned to the back benches and apparently was the lone voice in the Parliamentary meeting in 2010 that voted against entering the Coalition. But made appearances on game shows including both as a regular guest and occasional guest host on Have I Got News for You.

It was already going to seem strange not seeing him on the Green Benches for the first time in my political life, but now that I will not even ever run into him around party conference or any other political event seems to be the cruellest, most final outcome from the collapse of Liberal Democrat support in last month's election.

My thoughts and prayers are with his young son Donald, who has lost his father and grandfather in the space of two months, as well as his and my wider Liberal Democrat family who have lost someone we all respected for the way he grew the strength of the party in those 7 years he was leader.

To conclude here he is at Lib Dem Conference two years ago on the subject of Europe, a speech where he was back at his best as I and many others who witnessed this in the hall agreed. We'll also like Duncan Brack did in the chair ignore the red light indicating his time was up.

Charles Peter Kennedy 25 November 1959 - 1 Jun 2015