All too often the world of politics descends into personal point scoring where no slight is too much; no barb too sharp.
And yet today, following the sad passing of Charles Kennedy - who, let's not forget, received more slights on his personal life than most during his career - we were all reminded that there are still good guys in Westminster, as both former rivals and colleagues lined up to pay tribute to the former Lib Dem leader.
Eloquent, well-grounded and roguishly affable, here are the man’s five most memorable moments:
1. Becoming the youngest member of the House of Commons
Don’t let those weathered features and foppish fifties barnet fool you - Kennedy was just 23 when first elected as MP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West in 1983, making him the youngest of the lot. It was a seat he would retain for five subsequent general elections.
2. Becoming leader of the Lib Dems in 1999
After the retirement of Paddy Ashdown, Kennedy was thrust to power as Liberal Democrats leader in 1999 with 57% of the vote. In 2001, his Lib Dems went on to record their best general election results in over seventy years, before going one better in his final general election of 2005, claiming a record 62 seats and 22 per cent of all votes. Kennedy stepped down as leader in the same year.
3. Appearing on BBC’s Have I Got News For You
We had to include this didn’t we? Sure, cynics at the time claimed it was for self-publicity, but it speaks volumes of a man so frequently lampooned by satirists for alleged alcoholism issues that Kennedy would walk straight into the proverbial lion’s den. Playing up for the cameras and telling a few jokes of his own, even as Ian Hislop and Paul Merton et al mercilessly tore him apart, he always remained congenial in nature and, as the clip above shows, capable of the odd witty retort. Kennedy was invited back to the show on many occasions and once hosted it.
4. His stance on the Iraq War
It's easy to forget that Kennedy was the only major political leader directly opposed to war in Iraq back in 2003. Not content that his voice was being heard in Parliament, he even led a rally in Hyde Park in protest, although his greatest moment in the regard arguably came when delivering this speech to his party in 2003. History, as Paddy Ashdown says, has proved Kennedy right.
5. His work on the Better Together Campaign
Much was made of Gordon Brown’s impassioned plea to keep Scotland as part of Great Britain before the recent referendum - though his fellow countryman’s role should also be highlighted. Kennedy, who was still held in high regard north of the border, spoke both articulately and powerfully of the benefits of keeping England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together. Who’s to know: had his Liberal Democrats ever got into government then perhaps the current reach for independence may not be as strong as it is today.
And finally, this letter
Thank you, Charles, you will be missed.