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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Kennedy says drink image is 'caricature'
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy with Jeremy Paxman
Charles Kennedy has rejected suggestions that he is a heavy drinker - but said he has never made a secret of the fact he is a sociable person who likes a drink.

The Lib Dem leader was speaking in a BBC Radio interview broadcast the day after the Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman apologised for any offence he caused when asking a series of questions about Mr Kennedy's drinking.


I think there's a good deal of caricature around the House of Commons - it's just that kind of place

Charles Kennedy
In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour Mr Kennedy again put suggestions he drank too much down to the Westminster rumour mill.

During the interview, to mark his marriage this weekend to Sarah Gurling, Mr Kennedy said: "I think there's a good deal of caricature around the House of Commons - it's just that kind of place.

"If you put yourself about and appear on some programmes that perhaps other politicians would not appear on, that fuels a degree of that profile. But I don't complain about it."

That was taken to be a reference to his appearance on programmes like BBC1's Have I Got News for You.

Asked if suggestions that he drank too much were unfair Mr Kennedy replied: "Yes I think they probably are.

"I've never made the slightest secret abou the fact I am instinctively a sociable person and that means the I enjoy a drink with friends and colleagues as and when."

Calming influence?

Ms Gurling was quizzed on whether she saw herself as a steadying influence on her fiancee.

She said: "I think it's probably fair in that maybe we are both at a point in our lives when we are looking forward to the next stage and maybe it has been calming but I wouldn't say I was as the image is sometimes portrayed.

"Reputations that get out there - as I know from what's been reported about me - aren't necessarily correct ones. It's a normal fun life really."

Mr Paxman's line of questioning during Wednesday evening's Newsnight, was raised in the House of Commons on Thursday.

One of the questions he asked was whether Mr Kennedy drank privately "by yourself, a bottle of whisky late at night"?

"No I do not," the Lib Dem leader replied.

Charles Kennedy and Sarah Gurling
Mr Kennedy is shortly to wed
The BBC defended Mr Paxman's line of questioning although the presenter said he was sorry for any offence caused.

"The questions put to Charles Kennedy about his personal life made up a short section at the end of an interview which largely comprised tough questions about policy and the Liberal Democrats' political philosophy," said a BBC spokesman.

"Mr Kennedy has answered questions about social drinking on several occasions in the past from print and broadcast journalists.

"It was not unfair for Jeremy Paxman to touch on the matter."

'One too many'

Mr Paxman added: "I have always found Charles Kennedy an affable chap.

"I am sorry if any offence has been caused. Maybe there was one question too many on drink."


When the mud is thrown, there is a tendency for the mud to stick and difficult to dispose of

Robin Cook
Mr Paxman spoke out after Labour MP Jonathan Shaw said questions in the Newsnight interview were "highly personal and irrelevant to political debate", which did nothing to enhance parliament or the BBC.

Mr Cook agreed, stressing that "when the mud is thrown, there is a tendency for the mud to stick and difficult to dispose of".

He said the BBC needed to reflect that it was a public service broadcaster, and it "should not seek to dumb down and compete with the bottom end of the market".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Charles Kennedy
Paxman quizzes him about his drinking habits
Charles Kennedy
Watch the Paxman interview in full
See also:

18 Jul 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | Politics
28 Apr 02 | Politics
16 Feb 01 | Key People
11 Feb 02 | Politics
18 Jan 02 | Politics
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