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Neil Kinnock, Labour’s most prominent anti-devolutionist, backs Vaughan Gething for First Minister

15 Feb 2024 6 minute read
Neil Kinnock (L). Photo Nick Ansell. Vaughan Gething

Martin Shipton

Labour’s most prominent opponent of devolution Neil Kinnock has endorsed Vaughan Gething to become Welsh Labour leader and First Minister.

The former Islwyn MP and vice president of the European Commission, now 81, campaigned against the establishment of a Welsh Assembly at the first referendum to consider the question in 1979.

The Labour government of the time, led by Cardiff MP James Callaghan, was in favour of devolution for Wales, but Neil Kinnock was one of just six MPs in south Wales who campaigned against devolution. He personally backed an amendment to the Wales Act stating that devolution would require not only a simple majority, but also the backing of 40% of the entire electorate.

As things turned out, Wales voted heavily against devolution on that occasion, and it was another 18 years before a second referendum took place that saw the Yes campaign win a narrow victory.

In 1997 the then Mr Kinnock was still vice president of the European Commission and did not participate in the referendum.

Now a member of the House of Lords and living in London. Lord Kinnock, who led UK Labour from 1983 to 1992, threw his weight behind Mr Gething’s bid to succeed outgoing Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford.

In a video released by the Gething campaign, Lord Kinnock said: “All leaders need values to guide them; vision that gives them a clear, practical purpose; common sense and resilience so they are realistic and firm – especially in tough times.

“Vaughan Gething has got those attributes in full – they are deep-rooted and, crucially, proven under pressure. They come from his democratic socialism, his trade unionism and his strong character.

“They all enable him to stand relentlessly against Toryism and to have a driving sense of service to Wales and all of its communities.”

The peer added: “I’ve seen him in action as a minister who constantly strives for investment for public services and for new jobs.

“He’s dynamic, authentic and determined. Those are the qualities needed to lead our Labour movement and to lead. Please vote for Vaughan Gething.”

Honoured

Welcoming Lord Kinnock’s endorsement, Mr Gething said: “Neil Kinnock is a giant of our movement. Few people know so acutely what it takes to lead our party. I’m honoured to have his support. I’m hopeful for the future our Welsh Labour movement can create for Wales together – for Wales, for Labour, for you.”

But a Labour insider said “It’s like the Vaughan Gething campaign are completely unaware of Welsh Labour history. While Lord Kinnock was of course a huge figure, he completely opposed devolution and the role Vaughan is now standing for being created.

“He made it clear that Wales should not have its own voice. While Rhodri Morgan and his successors championed a Welsh Labour way, Kinnock and many of the other people around Vaughan publicly criticised this.

“The day before ballots drop Vaughan wants us to ignore all that and instead focus on how important people are supporting him over his pro-devolution opponent. It’s a polite no thanks from many of us. We believe in devolution and the role of First Minister. The question now looms. Does Vaughan Gething?”

Duty

In 2004 Neil Kinnock said he would campaign against more power for the Welsh Assembly in another devolution referendum, saying it was his duty as “a responsible Welshman” to oppose more powers.

“I think the addition of legislative or tax-varying powers at this juncture would work against Wales,” he said at the time, adding that any referendum to extend powers in the immediate future would be “potentially seriously disadvantageous”.

In 2006 Neil Kinnock was strongly criticised in a TV programme for his anti-devolutionist stance by a former Labour MP who went on to become a distinguished judge.

The late Ceregion MP Lord Elystan-Morgan, who had been one of the leading lights of the ill-fated Yes campaign in 1979, told an ITV Wales documentary: “I don’t know if it was a hatred of the idea of Wales, as a country and a nation, that made him do what he did. Or were there motives that were even less honourable? Did he see an opportunity to establish himself as one of the party’s great future leaders? I felt angry towards him. I remember saying some unkind things.

“We had a huge meeting in Aberystwyth’s Great Hall – 1,200 people attended. Gwynfor [Evans] and I stood on one side. Kinnock and David Gibson-Watt [a former Tory Minister] stood on the other. We won easily, with a massive majority. But that wasn’t characteristic of Wales as a whole.

“I remember I finished my speech by turning to Kinnock. It was a nasty thing to say, but it was true. ‘Please don’t think that you can trample the life of this nation in the mud of your own miserable self-interest.’

“That’s what I believed he was doing. And I haven’t changed my mind.”

Fight

Lord Kinnock refuted the allegations in the programme, saying, “He’s lucid, fluent, creative, and consequently when you climbed in the ring with Elystan, you knew you were in a fight. All you can say to that is, let them look at history. They’ll see that there wasn’t a bandwagon to jump on.

“And anybody who thinks that, for opportunistic reasons, a young politician will invite the kind of experiences that my family and I went through, in those years of ’77, ’78 and ’79 as a consequence of the stance I took… anybody who can think that you will calculate the advantage in that hasn’t got much idea about me, certainly.”

Lord Kinnock said he strongly believed the result of the referendum reflected the fact that the majority of the Welsh industrial hinterland “had a deeper understanding of unity and solidarity with the rest of the UK at the time”.

Responding to Lord Kinnock’s endorsement of Vaughan Gething, Ethan Jones, a prominent member of Yes Cymru, posted to X: “I would prefer a Labour leader in Wales who has brave ideas for our country, a plan to implement them and the confidence to be bold. I want ambition for our country beyond being an occasionally relevant supplementary act in Westminster’s power games.”


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Crwtyn Cemias
Crwtyn Cemias
2 months ago

Wel, dim syndod fan’na te! ~ Well, no surprise there, then!

David Smith
David Smith
2 months ago

From Wales but living in North London, would Neil have a vote in this election?

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
2 months ago

Perhaps Lord Kinnock could tell us why Cymru (which in the last 100 years has always returned a majority of Labour MPs) should be governed by the Tories (70% of the time). Is he happy to see our NHS, education provision and communities being destroyed by endless neo-liberal Tory b******t!

Stevie B
Stevie B
2 months ago

My name is Neil Kinnock and I am a traitor.

Why vote
Why vote
2 months ago

Never walk on a beach when the tide is coming in Mr gething that’s the one thing Mr kinnock will always be remembered for, can’t think of anything else, walking on a beach.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
2 months ago

Did Lord Bedwelty ever apologise about repeating that disgusting lie he repeated in the run up to the 1979 devolution referendum about children in Gwynedd schools not being allowed to go to the toilet unless they ‘asked in welsh’

Annibendod
Annibendod
2 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

A lie that became a trope that continues to this day. And not the first time the seeds of prejudice have been sown against the Cymry either. How many Cymry were turned by the tropes that began in the Victorian era, such as the paternalistic and patronising musings of Matthew Arnold? My grandfather, born in the Rhondda to 1st language Cymry from Aberteifi who did not speak Cymraeg to him because they were told not to as “English was the way for Wales to modernise.” Pure cultural chauvinism. When will Labour admit their historic moral failure and apologise?

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
2 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

I agree, when will Labour apologise? The ‘Blue books’ the ‘Welsh Not’ are a etched into our collective shame. Labour party councillors, MSs and MPs over the last century and more have deliberately denied Cymru of its history and language. I look forward to the day when the British union loving Labour party will join the list of shame.

Last edited 2 months ago by Cwm Rhondda
David
David
2 months ago

Will Lord K and VG rename the party as ‘The Labour and Unionist Party’ branch office?

William
William
1 month ago
Reply to  David

No it is New Welsh Laybor

Annibendod
Annibendod
2 months ago

Neil Kinnock possesses a deep and ongoing prejudice and hatred of Cymreictod. He isn’t the only self-loathing Welshman, nor will he be the last. For me he epitomises the very worst of the Labour tradition in Wales. Growing up I recall being repeatedly and sanctimoniously preached to on the need for solidarity across the UK. However, it only ever amounted to party political ambition. Kinnock campaigned against Welsh democracy. In doing so he helped subject Wales to punishing decades of mandateless Tory misrule. How fitting that he endorses Gething, the man with a vision of an emasculated Cymru. The sooner… Read more »

G. Williams
G. Williams
2 months ago

KInnock’s support for Gething says it all!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 months ago

Well that’s the death of any hope Vaughan Gethin has on becoming First Minister with Neil Kinnock’s backing. The man not only is treacherous but a hypocrite too. They say Keir Starmer flips more times than a McDonald’s quarter pounder, but he has nothing on Kinnock. The Israeli a man who changes direction more times than a wind sock. In 1975, Kinnock opposed Britain entering the Common Market only years later to become a Europhile boarding the EU gravy train along with his entitled family. As a modern day Lord Haw Haw, Neil Kinnock also gave us 18 years of… Read more »

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
2 months ago

Dic Siôn Dafydd yn dioddef o gymhlethdod y taeog.

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
2 months ago

Aahhh, Kinnock, the failed champagne socialist along with that other cap doffing anti Welsh man George (mam) Thomas. Kinnock reminds me of a first world war general, miles from any danger while urging others towards further sacrifice & then reaping rewards that were unearned. Kinnock gets by on fine oratory & platitudes plus a sharp opportunistic eye for the next self serving opening. He may well have suffered humiliation through the media back in the day but it was the rest of us that suffered the hardships. Cymru needs to move on now & indeed there are signs that this… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth
2 months ago

Was Mr Kinnock apprenticed to a Mr Vidkun Quisling as a young man, some similar traits exhibited here.

Richard
Richard
2 months ago

Says it all ❌

Maesglas
Maesglas
2 months ago

Mr Kinnock’s idea of being Welsh is just as much as supporting Cardiff City football club on a Saturday afternoon. Neither he, or his Shadow Cabinet son, have e commented on Welsh affairs, besides telling us how bad Plaid Cymru and Independence are. He neither lives in Wales nor shows any understanding of Welsh culture. His endorsement of Gethin convinces me more than ever that Miles is a better choice for those who care about a Wales future.

A Evans
A Evans
1 month ago

Windbag backs failure!

William
William
1 month ago

Old anti devolutionist backs invisible man.
why

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