Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy dies, aged 55

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Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has passed away aged 55.

The former MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber – who was unseated by the SNP last month after 32 years in Parliament – died at his home in Fort William today.

Police are not treating the death as suspicious, but no cause of death has been given.

During his time leading the Liberal Democrats, from 1999 to 2006, Mr Kennedy’s party made a number of advances on gay rights.

Lib Dem peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill submitted a Private Members’ Bill on civil partnerships under his leadership in 2002 – and Mr Kennedy later voted with the Labour government on the introduction of civil partnerships, same-sex adoption, and the equal age of consent.

However, in 2008 he voted against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill – which boosted access to IVF for lesbians – despite his party’s manifesto commitment to end discrimination against lesbians seeking fertility treatment.

In 2013 he missed the second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples bill as he was caring for an ill family member – but eventually voted for the measure at the third reading.

Nick Clegg, who resigned as Lib Dem leader last month, said: “Charles’s untimely death robs Britain of one of the most gifted politicians of his generation.

“Charles devoted his life to public service, yet he had an unusual gift for speaking about politics with humour and humility which touched people well beyond the world of politics.”

Mr Kennedy’s family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness, and an enormous sense of shock, that we announce the death of Charles Kennedy.

“We are obviously devastated at the loss. Charles was a fine man, a talented politician, and a loving father to his young son.”