Charles Kennedy was ‘great friend of Jews and Israel’


Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush has paid tribute to former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, who has died aged 55.

Mr Kennedy had a warm relationship with the Jewish community during his time leading the party and also as an MP during his long political career.

Lib Dem leader from 1999 to 2006 – during which time he presided over the party’s best-ever election result – Mr Kennedy lost his seat to the Scottish National Party in last month’s election.

He died at his home in Fort William, Scotland, on Monday.

Mr Arkush said: “We are very saddened to hear of the untimely death of former Liberal Democrat party leader Charles Kennedy.

“He was a great friend of the Jewish community and of Israel and his passing leaves a loss in British public life.”

Speaking at a Jewish event in Glasgow in 2009 , Mr Kennedy had said he would “rather be known as a candid friend of Israel than tell people what they want to hear. My record speaks for itself”.

He was lauded by the Board and others in 2004 after he dismissed Jenny Tonge as a Lib Dem frontbencher for expressing sympathy with Palestinian suicide bombers.

But a year later Mr Kennedy was attacked by deputies when he appeared at a Board plenary meeting. The first Lib Dem leader to address the Board, he was told that subsequently giving her a peerage – making her Baroness Tonge – had caused offence.

He said his own Catholic faith helped him understand Jewish concerns on sensitive religious issues.

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