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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Tell us another one, Charlie

By Ben Davies
BBC News Online political staff

It was the ultimate Lib Dem headache.

TV funny person and Lib Dem celeb Sandy Toksvig blows out an expectant end of conference audience at the temptingly titled Gender Balance Task Force gig.

The organisers know this is one event that desperately needs a comedy injection. What to do?

Well there was only one answer. Send for Charlie.

Charles Kennedy
Not known for his gambling
Not only that but this was a show where we got three for the price of one.

Compered by Sandra Gidley, warmed up by Lembit Opik and finally top of the bill, star comedian Charlie Kennedy.

He talked of by-elections and of Hutton all the while skilfully holding his audience's attention.

Then there was the final gag.

'Have you heard the one about the time I was turned over by the Sun?'

Having been attacked by Fleet Street's finest earlier in the week when he was branded "Red Kennedy" he reminded us of a previous time 10 years ago when he had come in for criticism from the same paper.

Then he was party chairman and he made a considerable killing after wagering his party would win just two seats in a European election.

Winner

"Now I am not a gambler," he assured us.

"But I looked at the odds and I thought 40 to one on two seats. We're surely going to get those two seats.

"And fifty to one on three seats and I thought to blazes with it - 50 down on two seats and another 50 down on three seats.

"On the Sunday night ... I'm sitting in the studio on behalf of the party ... and the results started coming through and we won one seat, then we won two seats and I don't know if you remember but we were cheated out of the third seat by the Literal Democrat candidate.

"But it was pretty clear that we had won two seats and I began to calculate the odds in my head and I'm two grand better off."

Getting away with it?

Unfortunately for Mr Kennedy the news of his luck spread and the Sun splashed the story on its front page saying he had bet against his then leader Paddy Ashdown.

Mr Kennedy takes up his tale: "The funny thing about the Sun is when you do appear occasionally in it people say 'oh I would never read that newspaper' except for the edition you happen to appear in.

"And everybody you ever have known somehow has seen it and read it and my best friend Murdo from university days phones up.

"And he phoned and said 'I saw you on the front page of the Sun ... but for gambling?

"'Not women, not booze, but gambling? Well I suppose when you think about it Charlie, they got Al Capone for tax evasion.'"

Boom, boom, as another famous redhead would say.




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