SOUTH Tyneside’s two Labour MPs have spoken of their sadness at the shock death of former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy at the age of just 55.
Mr Kennedy, who led his party between 1999 and 2006, was found dead at his home in Fort William,in Scotland, on Monday.
His death, which comes just weeks after he lost his Ross, Skye and Lochaber Parliamentary seat at the general election, is not being treated as suspicious.
Mr Kennedy’s passing has led to tributes from both political friends and foes, with the charismatic politician’s integrity being contrasted to a modern backdrop of political spin and back-biting.
In particular, his opposition to the Iraq war and his leadership of the party at its two most successful general election campaigns have been praised.
Today Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn and his counterpart in South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, paid homage.
Despite being on opposing political sides, the Jarrow MP immediately found his Scottish counterpart to be “one of the friendliest lads”.
Mr Hepburn had known the former Lib Dem leader since he entered Parliament for the first time 18 years ago, when he was instantly struck by his friendly persona.
He said: “I was very saddened to hear of Charles Kennedy’s passing. When I entered Parliament in 1997, I found Charles to be one of the friendliest lads there and we would often chat.
“He was a man of great intelligence and integrity and the political scene in this country will certainly be the poorer without him.
“My thoughts are with his family at this time.”
And Mrs Lewell-Buck, who was first elected in 2013, said: “MPs from all parties had immense respect for Charles Kennedy both as a politician and as a person.
“He was a kind and genuine man, and one whose dedication to his principles was admired by everyone.
“This news came as a real shock, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”