In the most scathing attack on the former Labour leader's personal qualities, Lord Tebbit, pointing out that Mr Kinnock would be responsible for sensitive negotiations, asked: 'Could you put Mr Kinnock in charge of . . . a fish shop? He simply does not have the intellectual ability to do the job.'
Mr Kinnock's appointment - the subject of persistent hints and rumours - has been so finely balanced that it is impossible to find anyone in the Conservative or Labour leadership who will say anything about it. But the force of Lord Tebbit's criticism is so strong that it could tip Whitehall against the former Labour leader.
In an interview with the Independent, the former Tory party chairman said: 'For the Government to co-operate with Mr Smith's convenience in getting Mr Kinnock out of the way would be quite disgraceful. I have no particular fondness for Brussels, but if I were a commissioner or an official in Brussels I would think that it was the ultimate British insult if Mr Kinnock were to be sent as a commissioner.
'Men like Delors, whatever you think of him, are powerful intellectual figures. And the senior bureaucrats there, beneath the Commission, are men of first-rate intellect in general. I can think of nothing more humiliating than for them to have to work with, or for, a man whose intellectual abilities have been demonstrated to be so small.'
A Labour spokesman said last night: 'Lord Tebbit is completely discredited these days. All he ever does is bite people's ankles.'