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The Right Honourable Charles Peter Kennedy (born November 25, 1959) is a British politician, who has been leader of the Liberal Democrats (the third largest political party in the United Kingdom) since 1999.
Born in Inverness, he was educated at Lochaber High School and went on to study for a Masters in Politics and Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. It was at university that he became politically active, he was a member of the Dialectical Society (a debating club) but he was not a member of the Labour Club. He was elected president of Glasgow University Union and won the British Observer Mace university debating award. GUU was the last all-male student union in the world; during his time as president Kennedy opposed admitting women as members, but conceded defeat under pressure from the University Court. Shortly after he joined the Social Democrats (SDP).
While studying in America he also received the SDP nomination for the Scottish seat of Ross, Cromarty & Skye , which he went on to win in 1983, becoming the youngest sitting member of parliament. He has retained the seat and its successor Ross, Skye & Inverness West at four subsequent general elections; he is the Liberal Democrats' candidate for Ross, Skye & Lochaber at the forthcoming 2005 general election.
In the late 1980s the SDP and the Liberal Party, which had been co-operating in the SDP-Liberal Alliance, merged to form the Social and Liberal Democratic Party, later renamed the Liberal Democrats. Kennedy was one of only five SDP MPs to support the merge.
Kennedy served as a frontbencher for the Lib Dems in a variety of posts, including social security, agriculture and rural affairs, health, Scotland and Europe. He was also party president for four years, between 1990 and 1994.
Kennedy's style of leadership is somewhat different from Ashdown's, being regarded as more conversational and "laid back". Although he has been dismissed as lightweight by some observers, as a result of his appearances on the satirical panel game Have I Got News For You, opinion polls have shown him to be positively regarded as a party leader and potential Prime Minister by a significant fraction of the British electorate.
Kennedy maintains the long standing aspiration for his party to break through to the status of official opposition. In his first major campaign, the 2001 general election, the Liberal Democrats improved their share of the vote to 18.3%, 1.5% more than in the 1997 election. Although this is a smaller share than the 25.4% the SDP/Liberal Alliance achieved in 1983, the Lib Dems won 52 seats compared to the Alliance's 23.
Kennedy, along with his "election guru" Lord Rennard , has focussed the Lib Dems' regional campaigning in such a way as to turn a lower level of national support into a greater number of Parliamentary seats. He has proposed to extend this strategy at the next general election to target the seats held by the most senior and/or highly regarded Conservative MPs in the hope of supplanting the Conservatives as official opposition by the "decapitation" of their party in Parliament. At the same time, the Lib Dems also hope to capture marginal Labour seats, attracting Labour voters (particularly Muslim voters) who are dissatisfied because of the invasion of Iraq; the party has already succeded with this tactic in by-elections, taking Brent East and Leicester South from Labour.
Sarah gave birth to their first child, Donald James Kennedy, at 12:14am April 12 2005, at St Thomas' Hospital, London. Kennedy had been due to launch his party's manifesto for the General Election, which was subsequently delayed, with Sir Menzies Campbell taking temporary charge as acting leader and covering Kennedy's campaign duties. During the manifesto launch, Kennedy struggled to remember the details of a key policy (replacing the Council Tax with a Local Income Tax), which he later blamed on a lack of sleep due to his new child.
|Leader of the British Liberal Democrats|
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