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Tributes paid to ‘a political spouse who became a force to be reckoned with in her own right’

03 Dec 2023 5 minute read
Baroness Glenys Kinnock speaking during a service of prayer and remembrance to commemorate Jo Cox MP. Yui Mok/PA Wire

Tributes are pouring in for Glenys Kinnock, wife of the one-time Labour leader, Neil (later Lord) Kinnock, who became a prominent politician, and an outspoken one at that, in her own right.

She served as a member of the European Parliament for some 15 years, before being appointed minister for Europe and receiving a life peerage at the same time.

It was sometimes said of her, before she became an MEP, that she played a large part in formulating Labour Policy “over breakfast with her husband”.

And even though she was regarded by some as even more of a left-wing firebrand than Neil, that story was always fiercely denied.

Baroness Kinnock had a wide field of interests but she was especially well-known for her work designed to alleviate poverty and starvation in Africa and other parts of the world.

Glenys Elizabeth Kinnock (nee Parry) was born on July 7 1944, and was educated at Holyhead High School, Anglesey. She graduated from University College, Cardiff, in education and history, meeting her future husband there and they were married in 1967.

Baroness Kinnock subsequently worked as a teacher in secondary, primary, infant and nursery schools.

She became an MEP in 1994 and was a prominent member of several committees and for a period was Labour’s spokeswoman on international development in the European Parliament.

Scandal

But it was not all plain sailing.

In 2004, she was caught up in an expenses scandal in which she was one of scores of MEPs who allegedly signed in for the day at the European Parliament (to qualify for the £175 daily allowance) and then promptly left the building.

And in November, 2006 she was criticised in the press for taking what was described as “a junket” in Barbados to discuss world poverty issues.

She had the unenviable reputation as “the most travelled British MEP” and, along with her husband, also acquired the no less enviable title as Brussels’ “very own Lord and Lady Expenses”.

Baroness Kinnock was required to leave the European Parliament in 2009, when then prime minister Gordon Brown appointed her minister for Europe, following the resignation from that post of Caroline Flint.

Although, when her husband was ennobled some years earlier, she was entitled to be called Lady Kinnock, it was a title she never used.

However, on her appointment as minister for Europe she became a peeress in her own right.

She is survived by her husband of 56 years, who was with her in her final moments, and her children Stephen, a Labour MP, and Rachel.

She was described in a family tribute as “an adored grandmother”.

‘Formidable’

Baroness Glenys Kinnock’s son, Stephen, described his mother as a “formidable” person who had a “cheeky” sense of humour.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Labour MP for Aberavon left a personal message remembering his mother.

He wrote: “Heartbroken that my Mum passed away peacefully in her sleep last night, after many years of Alzheimer’s.

“She was a beloved Mum & Nain who was adored by her family & friends.

“A truly formidable person in every single way, and with such a cheeky sense of humour! Rest in peace.”

Lady Glenys Kinnock, at the Welsh Labour Conference, in Swansea. Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

Steadfastness

Former prime minister and Labour leader Sir Tony Blair said Baroness Kinnock’s death would be “mourned in many countries and corners of the Earth”.

In a statement, Sir Tony said: “Cherie and I are so sad the hear the news about Glenys. She was a huge figure in progressive politics for decades: incredibly smart, brave, determined and resolute in standing up for what she believed was right.

“Whether in fighting the cause of development, and the eradication of global poverty, social justice in Britain, equality for women or making the case for a European Union of weight and influence in the world, Glenys was passionate and persuasive. She was of course an enormous support to Neil but she was a leader in her own right.

“And as a couple, they were a joy to be near, full of fun, the life and soul of any gathering.

“In her last years, as Stephen and Rachel have written, she took her illness with the same steadfastness which had governed her life.

“Our deepest condolences to Neil, to Rachel and to Stephen and to all the wider Kinnock family. Glenys will be mourned in many countries and corners of the earth.”

Matriarch

Labour MP for Ogmore, Chris Elmore, has paid tribute to Baronness Glenys Kinnock describing her as one of Labour’s key “matriarchs”.

“Such terribly sad news. Glenys was so kind, always offering advice,” Mr Elmore wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“The Labour family has lost one of its matriarchs today.

“She will be missed by everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. My thoughts and love are with Neil, Stephen and Rachel.”


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Catherine
Catherine
6 months ago

Compared to what MPs do these days her “scandals” are entirely minor.

Richard
Richard
6 months ago

Just watching her on TV news singing

“ in Englsnds green and pleasant land “ slong with hubbie, Jack Staw et lal …

a great loss to her family & nation for sure

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 months ago

I have great sympathy for anyone afflicted by the awful illness that is azheimers but afraid to say that my abiding memory of glenys kinnock is the bogus and scurrilous claim she made during the 1979 devolution referendum (repeated by her husband in a parliamentary debate) that children in Anglesey were not allowed to go to the toilet unless they asked in Welsh.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
6 months ago

While sympathising with the loss for the family I fail to see what tangible benefits constituents gained by Glenys Kinnock being an MP or an MEP for Wales. While amassing a personal fortune for themselves the constituencies and the country represented by the Kinnocks are still some of the poorest in Europe.

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