Triumph of character over crushing election setbacks

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The Independent Online
NEIL KINNOCK'S rehabilitation since the crushing disappointment of the 1992 election must rank as a notable political comeback, writes Patricia Wynn Davies. He looks 10 years younger than in the dark days when he was still reeling from his second failure to lead Labour to victory.

The long haul back turned on two factors - the political purdah he imposed on himself when the late John Smith took over; and, second, the U-turn by John Major, who earlier had bowed to opposition to his appointment.

He felt deeply the accusations that despite nine hard years as Labour leader, many devoted to ensuring that the party did not self- destruct, it was the 'Kinnock factor' - his character and public persona - that lost the election.

He suffered a further rebuff within months of the election when he was forced to withdraw, tactfully, his name from the list of candidates to head the European organisation of Socialist International. The view that Britain was too Euro-sceptical was the root cause. Euro- scepticism, in turn, forced John Major to extend Bruce Millan's tenure.

He threw himself - misguidedly, according to some - into a confusing and catholic array of television appearances, while he struggled to find his feet. But the episode was the first sign of a revitalised Neil Kinnock. For vast numbers of tabloid newspaper readers, fed on an unremitting diet of scare and prejudice, a 'new' personality, jovial, likeable, genuine and decent, began to reveal itself.

That this had been the real Mr Kinnock all along, must remain one of the sadnesses for which the European high life may never quite compensate.