News – UK – Film reopens dispute over Charles Kennedy’s last election campaign


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FRIENDS and colleagues of the late Charles Kennedy MP have condemned the treatment they reportedly received during the 2015 campaign

Their answers appear in a new documentary, Charles Kennedy: A Good Man, which will air on BBC Alba tonight

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats lost his seat in Ross, Skye and Lochaber to Ian Blackford of the SNP in May 2015.Mr Kennedy died three weeks later of an alcoholic bleeding

A dispute over the campaign surfaced in 2018 when Mr Blackford, interviewed by The Times, said there was “absolutely no problem” between him and Mr Kennedy

However, former Labor Secretary Brian Wilson dismissed this version of events in a separate article written for the paper

At the time, an SNP spokesman said: “Neither the campaign nor Ian Blackford carried out personal attacks”

In the new documentary, Wilson, now The Herald columnist, says, “What Charles was exposed to had nothing to do with his politics

“It had no respect for what he had done in politics and in his public life

“It had no respect for its personal circumstances It was naked abuse and denigration of the worst kind. What was done to it was indescribably cruel”

The hour-long film opens in 1983 when Kennedy became Britain’s youngest MP at the age of 23

“You could tell he had something,” says Alistair Campbell. Former Tony Blair press secretary was a reporter when he spoke to Mr. Kennedy first met, and the two became friends

The former Lochaber High School student was a debater master and familiar with media skills after a stint on BBC Radio Highland He soon appeared regularly on shows like Call My Bluff and Have I Got News for You

When Paddy Ashdown left the leadership in 1999, Kennedy was in many ways the ideal choice to replace him, but his drinking had started to attract attention

Says Mr. Wilson, “There was clearly a problem, and people who were not in any way bad about him knew that as soon as he became much more focused on his public figure, either that [the drinking] or it would have to be sorted out war will end badly ”

Tackled by the media, Mr Kennedy and the party denied he had a problem after half of his party’s MPs told BBC Newsnight to step down as chairman, he resigned in 2006, saying he was getting help with alcoholism

Jim Wallace, former Deputy First Minister of Scotland, says the way Kennedy was treated by the party “still leaves a bad taste in my mouth”

Life resumed on the back bench, the Liberal Democratic coalition with the Conservatives came and went – he was against it – and then came the 2015 elections

Public relations consultant James Gurling, Kennedy’s friend and brother-in-law, said the level of anger in the campaign surprised and worried him. He was attacked on social media as the “Westminster toad” and told to “go back to the pub” Notes were left on his car and pushed through the mailbox

The SNP took the seat at 20119 votes against the 14thIn his electoral concession speech, Kennedy joked about the SNP’s landslide victory across Scotland, saying it was “the night of the long Sgian-Dubh”

Jim Wallace said the last time he heard from Mr Kennedy he looked forward to joining him on the remainder of the EU referendum

It wasn’t supposed to be. He was buried on a hill in Lochaber with other generations of Kennedys. He was 55 years old

David Green, Kennedy’s aide, said the 2015 campaign was a lesson in how to be careful with language

“Because you do not believe in any particular constitutional outcome for the country that you hold dearly about, you will in no way become a quisling, traitor, or otherwise. It just means that you have a different point of view”

Mary Ann Kennedy, who lives and works in Lochaber and is part of Mr. Kennedy said: “It would be completely wrong to say the SNP is against Charles Kennedy”It wasn’t like that

“But there was a small malicious group that undermined him and developed a shameful election campaign”

The BBC said it did not reach out to Mr Blackford to comment on the campaign because the documentary was about Mr Kennedy and not his political opponents

Charles Kennedy: A good man, BBC Alba, tonight at 9 p.m. and on HD on iPlayer

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Charles Kennedy, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National Party, Ian Blackford

News – GB – The film opens up another dispute over Charles Kennedy’s last election campaign