Goodbye Charlie. The nation loved you, your party shafted you and your voters destroyed you

3 Nov 2015 at 18:22

I have just been to pay my respects to my dear old friend Charlie Kennedy at St Georges Cathedral in Southwark. Built to the glory of God and an homage to Rastafarian mock gothic. The good, the great and the not so great joined hands to see the great man off.

There was a delightful irony that Cameron, Ken Clarke, Gove and many of the cabinet processed in to the swelling of the seventy stop organ, (no, not Mellor, his organ never stopped) booming out Ode to Joy. Or to you an me the European national anthem. The Brexiteers will convulse with fury at this perceived act of treachery. And the piercing fakirs eyes of Dan Hannan will be swivelling in indignation. As for Bill Cash? Matron is with him now.

There were some good jokes. Jim Wallace reminded us of Margaret Thatcher’s query about whom was the young member with pale suit and Nairobi sunset hair newly elected in 1983. ‘Argh’, with a snarl that curdled the milk of human kindness, ‘the thought that Hamish Gray could have been defeated by a man wearing white socks!’ And he wasn’t even from Essex.

Then there was the tale of adoring women screeching, ’ we love you Charlie’. His response was, ‘then keep it quiet, the party is in enough trouble.’ Jim Naughtie came up with a lovely line from Norman St John Stevas who advised a young Kennedy that being in politics was ‘like being a pianist in a whorehouse’. To be fair, I doubt whether Norman had ever been in a whorehouse. But he might have had the odd nine inch pianist.

There was also a fascinating compilation of Kennedy speeches and interviews. In one he was rather disobliging to David Owen. ‘Bullying, vindictive and egotistical’ come to mind. Poor David processed out to the tune of fly me to the moon on the arm of Shirley Williams. Owen had the face of a robber’s dog looking for raw meat.

It was a lovely service. Like all politicians he was vilified in life and beloved after death. But this was a show of genuine affection for a brilliant, kind decent and unaffected man who gained more seats than the Lib Dems have ever had. As Naughtie remarked, ’he was not a policy wonk but he always answered the questions even if it was not entirely accurate. But,my God, he was a great human being.

Kennedy summarised a truth that the public love and the greasers and chancers of Westminster despise. ‘Politics is much too serious to be taken seriously’.

Goodbye old friend. I will miss the the joy of you, the humanity of you and the many evenings on the piss with you. Your beautiful wife Sarah and lovely son Donald have much to be proud of.

And to his credit Tom Watson was there. Corbyn was consulting with Stop the War.