Neil Gordon Kinnock|
28 March 1942
|Alma mater||Cardiff University|
The longest-serving Leader of the Opposition in British political history, a UK politician who never become Prime Minister.
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock (born 28 March 1942) is a British Labour Party politician.
Neil Kinnock served as a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1970 until 1995, first for Bedwellty constituency and then for Islwyn. He was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1983 until the Labour Party leadership election in 1992, making him the longest-serving Leader of the Opposition in British political history to date, and the longest never to have become Prime Minister.
Following Labour's fourth consecutive defeat in the 1992 general election, Neil Kinnock resigned as leader and resigned from the House of Commons three years later to become the European Union's Transport Commissioner. He went on to become the Vice-President of the European Commission under Romano Prodi from 1999 to 2004.
In January 2005, he was elevated to the peerage becoming Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty in the County of Gwent.
Soon after his release from prison in apartheid South Africa on 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela chose Sweden as his first port of call in Europe because of all the support the ANC had received over many years from the Swedish government, especially from prime minister Olof Palme who was assassinated by agents of the apartheid regime in February 1986.
Ingvar Carlsson, Sweden's new prime minister, invited British politicians Neil and Glenys Kinnock to come to Stockholm in April 1990 and greet Mr Mandela. That meeting was recalled by Neil Kinnock in a television interview on 8 December 2013 (three days after Nelson Mandela's death).
- 1 Early life
- 2 Member of Parliament
- 3 Leadership of the Labour Party
- 4 EC Transport Commissioner
- 5 EC Vice-President
- 6 British Council
- 7 Life peerage
- 8 Personal life
- 9 Related Document
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Neil Kinnock, an only child, was born in Tredegar, Wales. His father Gordon Herbert Kinnock was a former coal miner who suffered from dermatitis and later worked as a labourer; and his mother Mary Kinnock was a district nurse. Gordon died of a heart attack in November 1971 aged 64; Mary died the following month aged 61.
In 1953, 11-year-old Neil Kinnock began his secondary education at Lewis School, Pengam, which he later criticised for its record on caning in schools. He went on to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, obtaining a degree in Industrial Relations and History in 1965. A year later, Kinnock obtained a postgraduate diploma in education. Between August 1966 and May 1970, he worked as a tutor for the Workers' Educational Association (WEA).
Member of Parliament
In June 1969 Neil Kinnock won the Labour Party nomination for the constituency of Bedwellty in Wales (later Islwyn) for the 1970 general election]]. He was elected on 18 June 1970 and became a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in October 1978. On becoming an MP for the first time, his father said "Remember Neil, MP stands not just for Member of Parliament, but also for Man of Principle". Labour government policy at the time was in favour of devolution for Wales, but the wider party was split. Calling himself a 'unionist', Kinnock was one of six south Wales Labour MPs to campaign against devolution on centralist, essentially British-nationalist grounds. He dismissed the idea of a Welsh identity, saying that "between the mid-sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth century Wales had practically no history at all, and even before that it was the history of rural brigands who have been ennobled by being called princes". In the Wales referendum 1979, the proposal for devolution was rejected.
Following Labour's defeat in the 1979 general election, James Callaghan appointed Neil Kinnock to the Shadow Cabinet as Education spokesman. His ambition was noted by other MPs, and David Owen's opposition to the changes to the electoral college was thought to be motivated by the realisation that they would favour Kinnock's succession. He remained as Education spokesman following the resignation of Jim Callaghan as party leader and the election of Michael Foot as his successor in late 1980.
He was known as a left-winger, and gained prominence for his attacks on Margaret Thatcher's handling of the Falklands War in 1982.
Leadership of the Labour Party
First period (1983–1987)
After Labour's heavy election defeat in June 1983, the almost 70-year-old Michael Foot resigned as leader and from the outset it was expected that Kinnock would succeed him. He was finally elected as Labour Party leader on 2 October 1983, with 71% of the vote, and Roy Hattersley was elected as his deputy; their prospective partnership was considered to be a 'dream ticket'.
His first period as party leader – between the 1983 and 1987 elections – was dominated by his struggle with the hard left, then still strong in the party. Kinnock was determined to move the party's political standing to a centre-left position. Although Kinnock had come from the Tribune Group left of the party, he parted company with many of his former allies after his appointment to the Shadow Cabinet.
In 1981, when still Labour's Education spokesman, Kinnock was alleged to have effectively scuppered Tony Benn's attempt to replace Denis Healey as Labour's deputy leader by first supporting the candidacy of the more traditionalist Tribunite John Silkin and then urging Silkin supporters to abstain on the second, run-off, ballot.
All this meant that Kinnock had made plenty of enemies on the left by the time he was elected as leader, though a substantial number of former Bennites gave him strong backing. He was almost immediately in serious difficulty as a result of Arthur Scargill's decision to lead his union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) into a national strike (in opposition to pit closures) without a members' ballot. The NUM was widely regarded as the labour movement's praetorian guard and the strike convulsed the Labour movement. Kinnock supported the aim of the strike – which he famously dubbed the "case for coal" – but, as an MP from a mining area, was bitterly critical of the tactics employed. In 1985 he made his criticisms public in a speech to Labour's conference:
The strike's defeat early in the year, and the bad publicity associated with the entryism practised by the Militant tendency were the immediate background for the 1985 Labour Party conference. Earlier in the year left-wing councils had protested at Government restriction of their budgets by refusing to set budgets, resulting in a budget crisis in Militant-dominated Liverpool City Council. Kinnock attacked Militant and their conduct in Liverpool in one of the best remembered passages of any post-war British political speech:
- "I'll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council! – hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.
- "I'm telling you <amid a deafening chorus of boos>, I'm telling you, and you'll listen, you can't play politics with people's jobs and people's services."
One Liverpool MP, Eric Heffer, a member of the NEC left the conference stage in disgust at Kinnock's comments. In June 1986, the Labour Party finally expelled the deputy leader of Liverpool council, the high profile Militant supporter Derek Hatton, who was found guilty of "manipulating the rules of the district Labour party". By 1986, the party's position appeared to strengthen further with excellent local election results and a thorough rebranding of the party under the direction of Kinnock's director of communications Peter Mandelson. Labour, now sporting a continental social democratic style emblem of a rose, appeared to be able to run the governing Conservative Party close, but Margaret Thatcher did not let Labour's makeover go unchallenged.
The Conservatives' 1986 conference was well-managed, and effectively relaunched the Conservatives as a party of radical free-market liberalism. Labour suffered from a persistent image of extremism, especially as Kinnock's campaign to root out Militant dragged on as figures on the hard left of the party tried to stop its progress. Opinion polls showed that voters favoured retaining Britain's nuclear weapons and believed that the Conservatives would be better than Labour at defending the country.
1987 general election
In early 1987, Labour lost a by-election in Greenwich to the Social Democratic Party's Rosie Barnes. As a result, Labour faced the 1987 election in some danger of coming third in the popular vote. In secret, Labour's aim became to secure second place.
Labour fought a professional campaign that at one point scared the Tories into thinking they might lose. Mandelson and his team had revolutionised Labour's communications – a transformation symbolised by a party election broadcast popularly known as "Kinnock: The Movie". This was directed by Hugh Hudson and featured Kinnock's 1985 conference speech, and shots of him and Glenys walking on the Great Orme in Llandudno (so emphasising his appeal as a family man and associating him with images of Wales away from the coalmining communities where he grew up), and a speech to that year's Welsh Labour Party conference asking why he was the "first Kinnock in a thousand generations" to go to university.
Joe Biden, who was at the time the Delaware Senator and presidential candidate, and later the US Vice-President, plagiarised lines from the speech for his own campaign speeches in the summer of 1987.
On polling day, Labour easily took second place, but with only 31 per cent to the SDP-Liberal Alliance's 22 per cent. Labour was still more than ten percentage points behind the Conservatives, who retained a three-figure majority in the House of Commons. However, the Conservative government's majority had come down from 144 in 1983 to 102. Significantly, it had gained 20 seats at the election.
Labour won extra seats in Scotland, Wales and Northern England, but lost ground particularly in Southern England and London, where the Tories still dominated.
Second period (1987–1992)
A few months after the election, Kinnock gained brief attention in the United States in August 1987 when it was discovered that then-US senator Joe Biden of Delaware plagiarised one of Kinnock's speeches during his 1988 presidential campaign in a speech at a Democratic debate in Iowa. This led to Biden's withdrawing from the race.
The second period of Kinnock's leadership was dominated by his drive to reform the party's policies to gain office. This began with an exercise dubbed the policy review, the most high-profile aspect of which was a series of consultations with the public known as "Labour Listens" in the autumn of 1987.
After "Labour Listens", the party went on, in 1988, to produce a new statement of aims and values—meant to supplement and supplant the formulation of Clause IV of the Labour Party's constitution (though, crucially, this was not actually replaced until 1995 under the leadership of Tony Blair) and was closely modelled on Anthony Crosland's social-democratic thinking—emphasising equality rather than public ownership. At the same time the commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament was dropped, and reforms of Party Conference and the National Executive meant that local parties lost much of their ability to influence policy.
In 1988, Neil Kinnock was challenged by Tony Benn for the party leadership. Later many identified this as a particularly low period in Kinnock's leadership—as he appeared mired in internal battles after five years of leadership and the Conservatives still dominating the scene and ahead in the opinion polls. In the end, though, Kinnock won a decisive victory over Benn and would soon enjoy a substantial rise in support.
The policy review—reporting in 1989—coincided with Labour's move ahead in the polls as the poll tax row was destroying Conservative support, and Labour won big victories in local by-elections.
n December 1989, he abandoned the Labour policy on closed shops — a decision seen by many as a move away from traditional socialist policies to a more Europe-wide agenda, and also a move to rid the party of its image of being run by the unions.
Neil Kinnock was also perceived as scoring in debates over Margaret Thatcher in the Commons — previously an area in which he was seen as weak — and finally Michael Heseltine challenged Thatcher's leadership. She resigned on 28 November 1990 to be succeeded by John Major. Kinnock greeted Thatcher's resignation by describing it as "very good news" and demanded an immediate general election.
Public reaction to Major's elevation was highly positive. A new Prime Minister and the fact that Kinnock was now current leader of a major party reduced the impact of calls for "Time for a Change". Neil Kinnock's showing in the opinion polls dipped; before Thatcher's resignation, Labour had been up to 10 points ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls (an Ipsos MORI poll in April 1990 had actually shown Labour more than 20 points ahead of the Tories), but many opinion polls were actually showing the Tories with more support than Labour, in spite of the deepening recession.
By now Militant had finally been routed in the party, and their two MPs were expelled at the end of 1991. The majority in the group were now disenchanted with entryism, and choose to function outside Labour's ranks, and to take advantage of opportunities created by Margaret Thatcher's unpopular 'poll tax'.
1992 general election, backbenches and retirement
In the three years leading up to the 1992 election, Labour had consistently topped the opinion polls, with 1991 seeing the Tories (rejuvenated by the arrival of a new leader in John Major the previous November) snatch the lead off Labour more than once before Labour regained it. Since Major's election as Conservative leader (and becoming Prime Minister), Kinnock had spent the end of 1990 and most of 1991 putting pressure on Major to hold the election that year, but Major had held out and insisted that there would be no general election in 1991. In the run-up to the election, held on 9 April 1992, most opinion polls had suggested that the election would end in a hung parliament or a narrow Labour majority.
In the 1992 election, Labour made considerable progress – reducing the Conservative majority to just 21 seats. It came as a shock to many when the Conservatives won a majority, but the "triumphalism" perceived by some observers of a Labour party rally in Sheffield (together with Kinnock's performance on the podium) may have helped put floating voters off. Although internal polls suggested no impact, while public polls suggested a decline in support had already occurred, most of those directly involved in the campaign believe that the rally really came to widespread attention only after the electoral defeat itself, with Kinnock himself changing his mind to a rejection of its negative impact over time.
On the day of the general election, The Sun newspaper ran an "infamous" front page featuring Kinnock (headline: 'If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights') that he blamed in his resignation speech for losing Labour the election, along with other newspapers who had backed the Conservatives in the run-up to the election. The following day's headline in The Sun was the triumphalist 'It's The Sun Wot Won It', which Rupert Murdoch, many years later at his April 2012 appearance before the Leveson Inquiry, stated was both "tasteless and wrong" and led to the editor Kelvin MacKenzie receiving a reprimand.
The Labour supporting Daily Mirror had backed Kinnock in the 1987 election and again in 1992. Less unexpected was the Financial Times backing of Kinnock at the 1992 election.
Kinnock himself later claimed to have half-expected his defeat in the 1992 election and proceeded to turn himself into a media personality, even hosting a chat show on BBC Wales and twice appearing – with considerable success – on the topical panel show Have I Got News For You within a year of the defeat. Many years later, he returned to appear as a guest host of the programme.
Neil Kinnock announced his resignation as Labour Party leader on 13 April 1992, ending eight and a half years in the role – making him the longest serving opposition leader in British political history. He had gained this distinction in November 1990, and no subsequent opposition party leader has yet matched this record. John Smith, previously Shadow Chancellor, was his successor as party leader.
He remains on the Advisory Council of the Institute for Public Policy Research, which he helped set up in the 1980s.
He was an enthusiastic supporter of Ed Miliband's campaign to lead the Labour Party in 2010, and was reported as telling activists, when Ed Miliband won, "We've got our party back".
EC Transport Commissioner
In 1995, marking the end of his 25 years in parliament, Neil Kinnock was appointed one of Britain's two members of the European Commission, which he served first as Transport Commissioner under President Jacques Santer. This came less than a year after the death of his successor as Labour leader John Smith and the election of Tony Blair as the party's new leader.
Support for a Lockerbie Inquiry
On 23 February 1997, former British diplomat Patrick Haseldine sought to enlist the EC Transport Commissioner's support for a Judicial Inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing. On 3 March 1997, Neil Kinnock's office replied that Neil Kinnock "read your letter to Mr Pickles, MP with interest. I regret, however, that it would not be appropriate for him, in his capacity as European Commissioner, to express views about the desirability of a judicial inquiry." However, on 12 December 2013, Kinnock responded to a subsequent email from Haseldine that "I am prepared to support the call for an UN Inquiry" into the deaths of UN Officials Dag Hammarskjöld and Bernt Carlsson".
In 1999, Neil Kinnock was obliged to resign as part of the forced, collective resignation of the Commission, but there was never any suggestion that he himself had done anything corrupt. He was re-appointed to the Commission under new President Romano Prodi and now became one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Commission. His term of office as a Commissioner was due to expire on 30 October 2004, but was delayed owing to the withdrawal of the new Commissioners. During this second term of office on the Commission, he was responsible for introducing new staff regulations for EU officials, a significant feature of which was substantial salary cuts for everyone employed after 1 May 2004, reduced pension prospects for many others, and gradually worsening employment conditions. This made him disliked by many EU staff members, although the pressure on budgets that largely drove these changes had actually been imposed on the Commission from above by the Member States in Council.
In February 2004 it was announced that, with effect from 1 November 2004, Neil Kinnock would become Chairman of the British Council. Coincidentally, at the same time, his son Stephen Kinnock became head of the British Council office in St Petersburg, Russia. Lord Kinnock resigned as Chairman in the summer of 2009.
At the end of October 2004, it was announced that Neil Kinnock would become a member of the House of Lords (intending to be a working peer), when he was able to leave his EU responsibilities. He was introduced to the House of Lords on 31 January 2005, after being created Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty in the County of Gwent. On assuming his seat Neil Kinnock stated:
- "I accepted the kind invitation to enter the House of Lords as a working peer for practical political reasons." When his peerage was first announced, he said, "It will give me the opportunity... to contribute to the national debate on issues like higher education, research, Europe and foreign policy."
His peerage meant that the Labour and Conservative parties were equal in numbers in the upper house of Parliament (since then, the number of Labour members has overtaken the number of Conservative members). Kinnock was a long-time critic of the House of Lords, and his acceptance of a peerage led Will Self to accuse him of hypocrisy.
Neil Kinnock is married to Glenys Kinnock, Britain's Minister for Africa and the United Nations from 2009 to 2010, and a Labour Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1994 to 2009. When she was made a life peer in 2009, they became one of the few couples to both hold titles in their own right. The two met while studying at Cardiff University, where they were known as "the power and the glory" (Glenys the power), and they married on 25 March 1967. Previously living together in Peterston-Super-Ely, a village near the western outskirts of Cardiff, in 2008 they moved to Tufnell Park, London, to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren.
Stephen Kinnock is married to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark (2011-2015) and leader of the Danish Social Democrat party. Stephen was assistant director of the British Council in Sierra Leone, head of the British Council office in St Petersburg and used to work at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. On 7 May 2015, Stephen Kinnock was elected Member of Parliament for the safe Labour seat for Aberavon in South Wales.
Rachel was in the Political Office at 10 Downing Street under Gordon Brown.
On 18 January 2009, Glenys Kinnock revealed on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that she and Neil Kinnock had received a personal invitation from Joe Biden to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama and Biden on 20 January 2009 at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Biden was elected Vice-President of the United States in 2008, but twenty years earlier had made the mistake of copying one of Kinnock's speeches.
|Document:Peak Kinnock||Article||19 September 2016||Craig Murray||"11,000 people saving £2 a month might not save a dying little baby, but would exactly pay the £264,000 per year salary of Neil Kinnock’s daughter-in-law Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive of Save the Children and wife of MP Stephen Kinnock. Misery for some is a goldmine for others."|
- "2013 BBC interview with Neil Kinnock an early supporter of Mandela" BBC1, 8 December 2013
- "South East Wales Public Life – Neil Kinnock – Labour politician from Tredegar"
- "Political leaders of contemporary Western Europe: a biographical dictionary"
- "Great Britain"
- "Neil Kinnock"
- "Profile: Neil Kinnock"
- "The Fight for Welsh Freedom" Y Lolfa Cyf, page 7
- "Dream ticket wins Labour leadership"
- "General election: '11 June 1987'", BBC Politics 97
- "Leader's speech, Bournemouth 1985"
- "1985: Miners call off year-long trike"
- For a history of the Militant tendency in the Labour Party, see Eric Shaw Discipline and Discord in the Labour Party: The Politics of Managerial Control in the Labour Party, 1951–87, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988, p.218-90 and Michael Crick The March of Militant, London: Faber, 1986
- James Naughtie "Labour in Bournemouth", The Guardian, 2 October 1985
- "1986: Labour expels Militant Hatton", BBC On This Day, 12 June
- "Guarding the good name of the rose"
- Anthony King (ed.), British Political Opinion, 1937–2000: The Gallup Polls (Politico's, 2001), pp. 105–7.
- [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10518842 "The rise and fall of New Labour"
- [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFgjCP6qpfU "UK General Election 1987 Campaign – Kinnock the Movie"
- "Joe Biden plagiarised Neil Kinnock speech"
- "Summary results of the 1987 General Election"
- "Thatcher's third victory"
- "BBC News"
- "Biden's Debate Finale: An Echo From Abroad"
- "Biden Withdraws Bid for President in Wake of Furore"
- "The Remaking of Labour, 1987–1997"
- [http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-03938.pdf "Leadership Elections: Labour Party"]
- "1989: Labour's union U-turn"
- "Mrs Thatcher Resigns"
- "Poll tracker: Interactive guide to the opinion polls"
- "Voting intention 1987-1992"
- "Tories win again against odds"
- "Key Issues in the 1992 Campaign"
- Jim Parish "It was tax what lost it for Labour", New Statesman, 1 January 1999
- [http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/sheffield/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8170000/8170344.stm "Kinnock came and didn't conquer"
- Compare Michael Leapman "'Rush of blood' was Kinnock's downfall", The Independent, 26 November 1995 with Alyssa McDonald
- "The NS Interview: Neil Kinnock", New Statesman, 29 April 2010
- "'Sun wot won it' headline was tasteless and wrong"
- "Labour's Neil Kinnock resigns"
- [http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/2010/04/20/general-election-2010-a-century-of-daily-mirror-front-pages-115875-22198683/ "General Election 2010 – A century of Daily Mirror front pages – Mirror Online"
- "A coal miner's son"
- "Labour's Neil Kinnock resigns"
- "We've got our party back"
- [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/conservatives-trounced-in-poll-1573413.html "Conservatives trounced in poll"
- "Labour chooses Blair"
- "British Council"
- "Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock", thePeerage.com
- "House of Lords Journal 238 (Session 2004–05)", Monday, 31 January 2005; p. 142
- Notably when Kinnock appeared, as the guest presenter, in an episode of Have I Got News For You, on Friday 3 December 2004
- "Baron Kinnock makes Lords debut"
- [http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/05/profile-alan-sugar-glenys-kinnock "New faces: Alan Sugar and Glenys Kinnock"]
- Camden New Journal, 10 January 2008, p.10.
- "Kinnock gives his girl away"
- "Danish election: Opposition bloc wins"
- Martin Westlake and Ian St. John, Kinnock, Little Brown Book Group Limited, 2001. ISBN 0-316-84871-9.
- Peter Kellner, essay on Neil Kinnock in G. Rosen (ed.), Dictionary of Labour Biography, Politicos Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-902301-18-8
- Michael Leapman, Kinnock, Unwin Hyman, 1987.
- George Drower, Neil Kinnock: The Path to Leadership, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1984.
- Greg Rosen, Old Labour to New, Politicos Publishing, 2005 (an account of the Labour Party before, during and after the Kinnock years). ISBN 1-84275-045-3
- Patrick Wintour and Colin Hughes, Labour Rebuilt, Fourth Estate, 1990 (an account of Kinnock's modernisation of the Labour Party).
- Neil Kinnock on the Home Secretary’s ambitions, and Cameron
- Neil Kinnock-2010 Interview
- Dailymail.co.uk, "Kinnock tried gag claims EU whistleblower".
- Announcement of his introduction at the House of Lords House of Lords minutes of proceedings, 31 January 2005