A remarkable political talent, Charles Kennedy, has passed away suddenly at the age of 55. He led the UK Liberal Democrats to their greatest heights. Because Nick Clegg did well in the television debates in the 2010 election and ultimately became Deputy Prime Minister, many people inaccurately reconstruct the LibDem peak as 2010. But remember, it lost seats in that election, and indeed other than a tiny gain a few months after Clegg became leader in 2007, the LibDems started losing local elections well before the 2010 national election, and has lost every one of them since. This was topped off with the 2015 slaughter, which also deprived Kennedy of his seat.

Because of what I do for a living, I always take particular note of how people with addictions manage their lives and careers. Kennedy sadly was brought low by his drink problem, and apparently never got into stable recovery (He was drunk on Question Time this March). Whether his drinking and the immolation of the Liberal Democrats hastened his death we cannot know, but in any event it’s hard not to wonder how much more he might have achieved with different flaps of the butterfly’s wings.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and served as Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama Administration. @KeithNHumphreys