Neil Kinnock was born in Tredegar
in south Wales
in 1942. His father was a miner, while his mother worked as a nurse. At the age of 14, Kinnock joined the Labour party
. He worked as a tutor at Cardiff University
before being elected as Member of Parliament for the Bedwellty and Islwyn
constituency in the 1970 General Election
, representing the Labour party
. Neil Kinnock would represent this seat throughout his parliamentary career unitl 1995 when he was appointed a European Commissioner
. Although Labour
would be in power for 5 years of his career, Kinnock never held a ministerial post, although he briefly held the post of Parliamentary Private Secretary
to Michael Foot
from 1974-1975. At this point of time his politics were to the left of the Callaghan
government and in 1978 he was elected onto the National Executive Committee of the Labour party
After the 1979 General Election defeat Kinnock's mentor Michael Foot was elected leader and Kinnock was promoted as the opposition Education brief and soon joined the shadow Cabinet. The party was deeply split at this time as the 'militant' hard left, led by Tony Benn fought to gain control of the party. This led to the 'gang of four' leaving the party to form the Social Democratic Party. The Labour party fought the 1983 General Election on a leftist platform which was later described as 'the longest suicide note in history' which made them appear unelectable in many voter's eyes. The conservatives under Margaret Thatcher won as Labour's share of the vote declined due to the competition from the Alliance between the Liberals and the Social Democrats. Foot resigned as leader, and Neil Kinnock became the then youngest ever leader of the Labour party, beating off competition from Roy Hattersley, Peter Shore and Eric Heffer. Kinnock reversed the drift to the left and strove to make the Labour party a more appealing propositon to voters.
Kinnock managed to shatter the influence of the militants, and managed to drop some of the extreme policies that Labour had held, although unlike New Labour under Tony Blair the party remained recognisibly socialist. Labour lost the 1987 General Election but with a much improved performance on 1983, helped by a strong campaign where a young Peter Mandelson first cut his teeth. That election was always going to be a hard one for the Labour to win, as the UK was at the height of the 'Lawson boom' of 1987.
In 1988 Tony Benn challenged Kinnock for the leadership of the party but Kinnock won convincingly. By 1992 Margaret Thatcher was been replaced by John Major and going into the election Labour had a lead in the polls. However by then Kinnock had been subject to a daily character assassination led by the Murdoch tabloids for the twin crimes of being Welsh and ginger. Labour also went in to the election with a commitment to raise the income tax that Middle Britain would pay. Coming into the final week of campaiging the result was too close to call, but come the first results of election night it was clear that the Tories would stay in power. The two factors that damaged Labour]'s chance that last week was the Jennifer's ear story, that turned off a lot of voters for voting for either main party, believing them to be as bad as each other, and a misjudged final conference held in Sheffield where the celebratory tone and conduct of the labour politicians may have also lost Kinnock more floating voters.
Kinnock resigned after this defeat, derided as a failure in the press, he nevertheless laid the ground work for new Labour, although such was the incompetence of the subsequent Conservative government it should have been possible for old Labour to have won the 1997 General Election. Indeed due to the increasing apathy of voters more people actually voted for Labour in the 1992 General Election then for the victorious Labour party in 1997.
Kinnock left his seat in parliament in 1995 when he became a European Commissioner. Kinnock's wife, Glenys is also a Labour MEP. Stuck away in Brussels he has been working with little media disturbance, first as Commissoner with responsibility for Transport and after 1999 as Vice President in charge of the insitiutional reform of the European bureaucrats. His success at this new job is pretty hard to gauge, at least in the UK, as very little interest is taken in the manueovring and internal politics of the European Union. However the continued short comings of Tony Blair's government in the eyes of traditonal Labour supporter means that Neil Kinnock is looked on with fonder memories each passing day.