Brian Wilson: I couldn’t let Blackford re-write history about Kennedy

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has been criticised over the treatment of the late Charles Kennedy. Picture: PA Wire
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has been criticised over the treatment of the late Charles Kennedy. Picture: PA Wire
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I would gladly never have written another word about the campaign mounted by Ian Blackford against Charles Kennedy in 2015. My views on Blackford are predictable while Charles Kennedy is dead.

Like many others, however, I felt a sense of outrage when I read the Times interview with Blackford in which he carried self-exoneration to new heights, expressed “pride” in the campaign he ran and – most offensively – insisted that there was “absolutely no issue” between Kennedy and himself.

SNP's Ian Blackford has been accused of disfiguring the last month's Charles Kennedy's life. Picture: PA/John Devlin

SNP's Ian Blackford has been accused of disfiguring the last month's Charles Kennedy's life. Picture: PA/John Devlin

This latter claim is grotesquely untrue. I was not close to Charles Kennedy through most of his Parliamentary career but we were always on friendly terms and had sufficient overlapping interests to ensure a good dialogue and laugh whenever we met.

It was only in the latter stages of his career and, as it proved, his life that I became one of those from whom he could seek support and advice in the face of the pressures he was under. By far the most bewildering and humiliating of these was the campaign mounted against him in the 2015 General Election.

READ MORE: SNP’s Ian Blackford accused of disfiguring last months of Charles Kennedy’s life

How should he respond? He simply did not know because he was a gentle man who had relied on the powers of debate and persuasion throughout his political life. His career was finished. He knew perfectly well that the post-referendum tide would carry him off, supposing the SNP had been represented by a donkey with a yellow rosette.

There was absolutely no need for the campaign launched by Blackford as soon as he became SNP candidate in January 2015 around the hashtag “Where’s Charlie?” – dog-whistle politics, as I wrote at the time.

And my word, didn’t his dogs bark savagely in response? As the months progressed, certainty of victory did not diminish the level of persecution which was based entirely on Charles’s personal circumstances.

Blackford is now a great eminence in the land and has no need, other than the demands of conscience, to chance his arm.

He should be in no doubt, however, that every attempt to re-write history will be rebuffed for as long as there is any self-respect left in Scottish public life.

READ MORE: Politicians pay tribute to the late Charles Kennedy