Day 94, and the UK press is filled with tributes to Charles Kennedy, the ex leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, who died 'suddenly and unexpectedly' on Monday at the age of 55.
The cause of Kennedy's death is not yet known, but it is widely assumed to be connected to his struggles with alcoholism and (its associated) depression, and possibly with the fact that Kennedy lost his seat, after nearly thirty years as an MP, in the general election last month.
Kennedy was, by all accounts, an extraordinarily talented politician, and a remarkable human being. He was loved and respected by members of all political parties, not just his own. He was brave and principled - the only party leader who spoke up against the war in Iraq, for example.
But he was bedevilled by the Wine Witch.
(Tallaxo tells me that, for men, it's a demon, not a witch. And he's male. And Kennedy's tipple was, I believe, whisky.)
Here is a link to an article written by Ming Campbell back in 2008 entitled 'How drink destroyed Charles Kennedy'. It describes, for example, how Charles was unable to speak at a meeting with Yasser Arafat in 2001 because he was so hungover.
On Budget Day in March 2004, Kennedy was expected at Prime Minster's Questions. When he didn't appear, Ming went to collect him and was blocked from entering his office by his PA because he had 'a stomach complaint.'
Eventually, in 2006 Charles stood down as leader of the party, citing a need to address his alcoholism as the cause, and his wife left him.
The article makes for uncomfortable reading, as I could imagine exactly what had been going through Kennedy's head at that time. He was a classic 'high functioning alcoholic' who kept everything seemingly under control, until the elevator, with a terrible inevitability, descended lower and lower, and he just couldn't control it anymore.
I can picture him at his desk thinking 'I'll just have one to steady my nerves before the Budget announcement.....perhaps a second will help take the edge off a bit....it's a long session, might need a third....' We've been there. We know the story.
In today's Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff writes: If Charles Kennedy’s death leads one or two to pause before unleashing mob scorn or fury, if it prompts an ounce more compassion for people whose lives might well be more complicated than they look – well, a fine liberal legacy that would be.
Hear, hear, Gaby.
Whether or not Kennedy's death was directly attributable to the whisky demon, it certainly had a massive negative impact on his life. What a waste of monumental talent. It reminds me of a quote that I reproduced in "Why ex-drinkers rock, Part 2" from Abraham Lincoln's Temperance Address:
"I believe, if we take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class. There seems ever to have been a proneness in the brilliant, and warm-blooded to fall into this vice. The demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity."
Farewell, Charles Kennedy. And, to all of you, don't let the wine witch (or the whisky demon) claim another victim.
Love SM x
Related Post: When the Wine Witch Wins