A new documentary on the life of Charles Kennedy will see close friends and colleagues recall the abuse the late politician was subjected to online in his final years.
Charles Kennedy: A Good Man, which airs on BBC Alba on Tuesday February 23, charts the journey from his Highland croft upbringing to becoming the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
It also looks at his resignation from the post due to alcoholism, and his tragic death just weeks after losing his seat as MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber to the SNP’s Ian Blackford in 2015.
Documentary contributor Brian Wilson, a journalist and former Labour MP, said of Kennedy’s later life: “He had someone full-time deleting the abuse towards him on social media.
“Charlie was grieving the death of his parents, the loss of his best friend, and trying to hold a family together. Nobody could have been well equipped to deal with that. It was beyond belief the things that were being said and done.
“What Charles was subjected to had nothing to do with his politics, had no respect for what he’d done in politics or in public life, and had no respect for his personal circumstances. It was naked abuse and denigration of the worst kind. I think what was done to him was cruel beyond words.”
The documentary will also feature contributions from Alastair Campbell, Lord Wallace and Mary Ann Kennedy.
In the hour-long film, close friend and former brother-in-law James Gurling reveals that Kennedy had very aggressive anonymous notes left on his car and put through his letterbox.
He said: “The level of anger and vociferous nature of the campaign surprised and really worried him. You begin to wonder what’s in those people’s minds that they think that is an appropriate way of doing things.
“All politicians get shouted down in meetings and get called all sorts but generally speaking that’s in a public view that the community can judge is fair or not. This was something quite different.”
Kennedy was just 23 years old when he won his Highland seat for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a time where the area had been devastated by the closure of the Aluminum Smelter at Invergordon.
In a 32-year career in politics, Kennedy rose through the ranks of his party and went on to lead the Liberal Democrats after the SDP merged with the Liberal Party.
He led the party from 1999 to 2006, when he stepped down after revealing his battle with alcoholism.
Following the Lib Dems’ role in the 2010 coalition with the Conservatives and the 2014 independence referendum, the 2015 election was highly charged.
Kennedy faced abuse on social media, and eventually lost his seat in what he described as “the night of the long sgian dubhs”.
He died a few weeks later and was buried on land in Lochaber dating back to the 18th Century when Cameron of Lochiel gifted burial rites to the Kennedys of Cluny for their support during the Jacobite Rebellion.
Tearlach Ceannadach: Labhraiche Lochabair / Charles Kennedy: A Good Man Speakingis on BBC ALBA on Tuesday, February 23 at 9pm and will be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days afterwards
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