Labour in Blackpool: Kinnock tempers regret with pride and hope in poignant farewell speech

Click to follow
IT WAS a poignant combination of gratitude, pride, regret and rekindled memories as Neil Kinnock made his last, farewell, conference speech as a National Executive Committee member, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

It was delivered almost conversationally at times, as if to batten down the emotion. He recalled Jack Jones's definition of the links between the political and industrial wings of the movement: 'It's like a good marriage; sometimes you feel that it could end in murder - but end in divorce, never.'

It was not an occasion of Kinnock oratory and fire. It was Neil Kinnock talking with those who had given him the privilege of leading them, decent and gracious in defeat. But it brought back the deep, personal sense of failure. 'I will regret to my dying day my failure to lead you to victory, the victory you deserved.' The delegates let out a collective expression of sympathy. 'No, no,' came a voice. But worst of all, said Mr Kinnock, was the result of the defeat, the extended years of injustice and waste.

The tears were there, particularly among those close to John Smith, as the baring of the collective soul stoked other memories. 'You elected a new leader and it is the bitterest cruelty that he never got the chance to show his full qualities of brilliance as a leader of our nation.' But they had given themselves a fresh chance. 'I am proud to call the man you heard yesterday, the socialist you heard yesterday, my close friend . . . And since yesterday, Britain knows too that Tony Blair has got what it takes to be trusted with the power of government.'

The standing ovation, and the cheers, duly came. Mr Kinnock clapped them back. That feel-good factor, once so elusive, was in the air.