POLITICS
22/09/2015 09:37 BST | Updated 22/09/2015 10:59 BST

Lib Dem 'Glee Club' To Sing Songs About Charles Kennedy's Drinking Problems Just Months After His Death

The Liberal Democrat leadership has distanced itself from a sing-song organised by party members making fun of Charles Kennedy’s drinking problem just months after his death.

Lyrics penned for the annual Glee Club event at party conference in Bournemouth refer to Mr Kennedy "downing bottles in a trice" and being "a bugger when he's pissed".

The songbook, on sale at the venue, pays tribute to the late party leader on its front cover. But health campaigners said the "joke is not helpful" and a party spokesman said it was not an official party event.

A Lib Dem source told The Huffington Post UK there are around 3,000 registered members at conference and "hardly anyone goes" to Glee Club.

charles kennedy

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

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.

Details of the event emerged in a story in The Herald newspaper. Journalists attending the conference tweeted lines from the book.

'Political Leader's Song' refers to the drinking habits of other politicians and ends: "Now Charles Kennedy must be added to the list. A lovely little leader but a bugger when he's p***ed."

Another is about encounters with the media: "Our leader, Charlie Kennedy has fought of Paxman on TV. He's tackled Humphreys, seen off Grice. While downing bottles in a trice. Oh hear us Charlie when we ask, to share the contents of your flask."

Dr Peter Rice, the chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, told the Herald: "We are making a lot of good progress as a society in treating alcohol problems. Treating serious issues like this as a joke is not helpful."

MailOnline reported suggestions organisers checked the songbook with Mr Kennedy's family, and at least one song was removed.

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: "It's not an official part event. Charles was an inspirational leader much loved by all in the Liberal Democrats, from activists to his colleagues in Parliament. Conference will pay tribute to Charles with a special event in his memory in the main auditorium today.”​

Hundreds of Lib Dems, including ministers and MPs, have joined in during the annual Glee Club. Songs by Oasis, Sting and the Beatles have been re-worked by activists. Last year former leader Paddy Ashdown led the singing.

Mr Kennedy's 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.

Earlier this month, 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.

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."

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