Election '97: Kinnocks hit campaign trail again in search of a happier ending

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The Independent Online
It was like the re-run of a newsreel. A Welsh, somewhat garrulous politician campaigning in his home land with his head-turning leading lady.

But unlike the 1992 version, when Neil and Glenys Kinnock campaigned in the marginal Monmouthshire constituency, yesterday's production presaged a possibly very different outcome to Labour's defeat five years ago.

Outside Woolworth's the Kinnocks, campaigning for the Labour candidate Huw Edwards, were besieged by well-wishers. "This is totally different to five years ago. It's great to be here again," Mr Kinsaid. "Glenys has visited 36 constituencies since the campaign started," he added. Mrs Kinnock responded: "No, 37".

Mr Kinnock's home town of Tredegar is 12 miles away and Ron Jenkins, 75, made the trip to show off a party rosette inset with a photograph of Aneurin Bevan which he had worn at every election since 1929. "It's one of my treasured possessions," Mr Jenkins said.

Another was too bulky to transport - he owns almost an entire run of the radical weekly Tribune, which earlier this year celebrated its 60th birthday.

Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned: "Le Shark", Sharon Clarke - "I'm no relation of that Ken" - pumped Mr Kinnock's hand vigorously. Her companion, 30- year-old Paul Bevan, pondered "I'm told I'm a distant relative of Nye - a great-great nephew or something like that."

Eventually, as party officials consulted their watches, the Kinnocks drove away to Monmouth to visit an early learning centre which had christened a goldfish Neil in honour of the occasion.

Lunch at the oak-beamed Punch House Hotel, where local businesspeople quizzed the couple on European matters, provided a break from pounding the pavements.

But then it was back to the streets, passing en route BT engineer Bob Davies who recalled: "I used to babysit for Neil and Glenys at their home in Pontllanfraith".

A market town in Monmouth, this boasts one of Wales' few public schools. It seems natural Tory territory. Some shops are Chelsea-come-to-Wales. Irma Fingal-Rock's delicatessen is big on virgin olive oil and expensive New World wines.

Penny Lane's tea rooms soothe with Glen Miller tapes, as dignified as the nearby statue of Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce fame. He was a local man who died in an air crash in Bournemouth.

Pausing at the 13th-century bridge spanning the River Monnow, Mrs Kinnock listened to appeals for European union funds to save a unique river crossing threatened by 20th century traffic. Mrs Sally Alsop the town's mayor said "we need cash for another bridge and I'm glad Mrs Kinnock has said she'll take our case to Europe."

Whether Mr Evans can hold the seat for the Tories will not be known until the polls close tomorrow. Labour's Huw Edwards, who has to overturn a 3,204 majority, is quietly confident.

The other candidates - Mark Williams of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru's Alan Cotton and the Referendum Party's Timothy Warry - will have to be content with walk-on parts.

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