Kinnock unlikely to take EC post

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Indy Politics
Speculation that Neil Kinnock might be about to pick up a lucrative appointment as one of the United Kingdom's European Commissioners was discounted yesterday, writes Anthony Bevins.

There was some suspicion at Westminster that reports were being fed out to test the possible reaction of Conservative MPs to the prospect of the former leader of the Labour Party joining forces with Jacques Delors, the Commission's left-wing president.

The latest spate of speculation was prompted by a meeting between John Major and John Smith, the new Labour leader, at No 10 on Thursday.

Such a meeting would be routine between a Prime Minister and a new leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, and would include confidential briefing on range of issues of national interest, although it is possible that initial soundings were also made about Mr Kinnock's suitability for Brussels.

Given that Mr Kinnock has already said that he wants to stand for election to Labour's national executive, and that he intends to continue as MP for Islwyn, his acceptance of a Brussels appointment would be surprising.

Although Mr Smith is allowed to make his own nomination for the commissioner's post, and the current Labour incumbent, Bruce Millan, has said that he would willingly relinquish his post, there is no certainty that Mr Major would sanction such a controversial appointment at a time when he faces continuing Conservative Party dissent over the Maastricht treaty legislation.

In 1976, it is known that James Callaghan, then Labour Prime Minister, rejected a nomination made by Margaret Thatcher, as Conservative Leader of the Opposition, and chose instead to appoint Christopher Tugendhat as Commissioner from the Conservative ranks.

It was also pointed out last night that the speculation about Mr Kinnock was premature.

Mr Smith has been told by No 10 that he will not be asked to deliver his nomination until the autumn. The Labour leader had, therefore, not even submitted a name for consideration by the Prime Minister.

(Photograph omitted)

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