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CAN AN MP BE TRUE TO HIS PRINCIPLES?

Byline: Dan O'Neill Straight to the point with the Kairdiff Kid

SO go on, ask your friendly local MP why he/she went into politics.

And delivered with all the sincerity of a Miss World finalist asked about her ambitions, the answer will go something along the lines of: "To serve the people... make the world a better place... secure the future of our children."

Never, ever: "Because it could mean a seat on the gravy train when I return to real life."

So far I haven't heard anyone ask Stephen Kinnock, son of Neil, that question as he prepares for his inevitable coronation as Aberavon MP next year, taking over from Hywel Francis who's held this impregnable seat since 2001.

Kinnock Jr, 44, has worked mainly in Europe. Francis was 55 when he won the seat after teaching at the University of Wales where he founded the South Wales Miners' Library. He was also president of the South Wales Miners' Museum and wrote the definitive account of Wales and the Spanish Civil War: Miners Against Fascism.

A champion of the miners, then. No wonder! His father was Dai Francis, leader of the South Wales miners during the troubled Seventies, a man who joined the Communist Party after that war in Spain and remained a Communist until his death in 1981.

He was a man, you could say, who stayed true to his principles Dai Francis would have much in common with another old Communist who stayed true to his principles until he died aged 93. Tom Hopkins had also been a miner - as well as seaman, boxer and even a hobo for a year in Depression-era America.

And almost to the end you'd see him Caerphilly selling the Daily Worker and Soviet Weekly and pamphlets he wrote and printed himself.

On the day they buried Tom Hopkins in January 2005, Neil Kinnock, swathed in ermine, became Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty. I guess that like so many other hopefuls he went into politics to change the world. The world of politics seems to have changed him.

I wonder, as the medieval ceremony went on, did he remember the words he wrote in 1976: "The House of Lords must go. Not to be replaced, not to be reformed in some nominated life-afterdeath patronage paradise, just closed down, abolished, finished."

Now, as son Stephen prepares to enter what is still unbelievably called the Mother of Parliaments, more of dad's words words are being resurrected. Stephen, say the Tories, is just another "Red Prince", son of a Labour politician following in father's footsteps, the hereditary principle in action.

They are recalling Neil Kinnock's attack on hereditary peers as nothing more than "descendants of brigands, muggers, bribers and gangsters."

Since quitting as MP in 1995 Kinnock has earned a fortune and an enviable pension pile after work as a European Commissioner in Brussells. Politics too often looks like pantomime but Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty was never going to be Baron Hardup. Like the multi-millionaire Tony Blair, life after politics has been kind to Neil Kinnock and scores of other MPs who leave the House to make a mint.

What did they answer, you have to wonder, when asked long ago: "Why do you want to be an MP?" In 1887 Lord Acton wrote that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Maybe something today's politicians should remember.

"I guess that like so many other hopefuls he went into politics to change the world. Politics seems to have changed him"

CAPTION(S):

Lord Kinnock of Bedwellty being helped into his ceremonial robes by his sponsor Baroness Amos during his introduction into the House of Lords in January 2005
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 26, 2014
Words:615
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