POLITICS

Charles Kennedy's Alcoholism Was Exacerbated 'A Lot' By Westminster Drinking Culture, Says Partner

06/09/2015 15:44 BST | Updated 06/09/2016 10:59 BST

A drinking culture at the House of Commons contributed "quite a lot" to Charles Kennedy's problems with alcohol, the former MP's partner said.

The former Liberal Democrat leader died suddenly at his home in Fort William, in the Scottish Highlands, earlier this year. The 55-year-old had suffered a major haemorrhage as a result of a long battle with alcoholism.

His body was discovered by his partner Carole Macdonald, who was the widow  of one of Mr Kennedy's close friends, Murdo Maconald, who died several years ago.

charles kennedy

Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, died suddenly in June

In her first interview, Mrs Macdonald revealed she believes a drinking culture at Westminster - where Mr Kennedy spent 32 years as an MP - had played a part in his problem with alcohol.

PA reported that she told the Sunday Times: "You are in an environment, often late at night, where drink is available, cheap, sociable, and you don't have to drive.

"All the constraints that might stop you aren't there. It is there and it is being normalised within your life.

"I don't think it caused it, but I'm sure it contributed to it. I suppose it must have contributed quite a lot."

charles kennedy

Charles Kennedy's family follow the hearse at his funeral in June

Mr Kennedy revealed he had been receiving treatment for an alcohol problem when he stood down as the UK leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2006.

His death shocked the political world, drawing cross-party tributes to the well-respected Kennedy.

Speaker John Bercow fought back tears as he said the House of Commons would mourn the passing of a "principled, progressive and passionate politician".

Bercow honoured Kennedy's 32 years in parliament, and leadership of the Lib Dems which saw more MPs for the party than at any other time.

"On a personal note I was always grateful to Charles for his support, encouragement and co-operation," he said. "I think I carry the House with me in saying that Charles Kennedy was a principled, progressive and passionate politician. And very importantly a proud parliamentarian especially in an age where there is a cynicism about politics and politicians.

"Charles had that rare and uncanny capacity to cut through to large numbers of voters of all persuasions, and of none, across the country. He was doubtless assisted in that by his obvious sincerity, his relaxed style and his geniality. I know that he was widely respected and liked in all parts of this House, and he will be sadly missed."

David Cameron hailed Mr Kennedy as a man with an "immense ability" that had been "taken from us far too soon".

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Jeremy Clarkson revealed that he’s cut alcohol out of his life following Kennedy's death, after been moved to give up drinking after the news.

Clarkson appeared in a 'Have I Got News For You' tribute to Kennedy, replaying some of his best appearances on the show including one where he got the better of Clarkson:

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