Kinnock resigns as leader of Labor Party

April 14, 1992|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,London Bureau

LONDON -- Neil Kinnock, the man who brought the Labor Party out of the wilderness -- but just not far enough -- resigned the party leadership yesterday.

After Thursday's defeat at the hands of the Conservatives, it was expected.

In a statement to his colleagues, the red-haired Welshman who rebuilt the Labor Party from a ruin of union and leftist domination, then for eight years harried and challenged Margaret Thatcher and her successor, John Major, said, "I will not be seeking re-election as leader of the Labor Party."

Roy Hattersley, his deputy, also resigned.

He told the party:

"The action that I am taking is an essential act of leadership. It is not to do with personal sensitivity -- it arises entirely from my desire to see that the Labor Party will gain further strength and be able to serve the people of Britain and the wider world community."

Labor lost the election but shaved the Conservative majority from 88 seats in the House of Commons to 21.

In what is likely to be his final major statement as leader of Britain's second party, he issued a cold warning about what what he considered the insidious, and decisive, role the news media played in the outcome of the election.

"As the election process opens [for a new leader], I have only one piece of advice for the Labor movement at every level: Do not feed and do not believe the press and broadcasting media in their reporting of these events."

Mr. Kinnock urged that election of a new leader be held quickly, probably by mid-June.

Favored to succeed him is John Smith, the Scotsman who produced Labor's alternative budget, which proposed to raise taxes on Britons earning more than $68,000 a year to pay for improvements in medical and other welfare services.

Bryan Gould, the party's environment spokesman, is expected to compete for the position.

Mr. Kinnock campaigned hard for the Labor Party in 1983; it lost. He led it into the 1987 election; it lost. Last week he tried one more time.

Much has been made over what Mr. Kinnock has lost by resigning.

With the leadership will go about half his $108,000 salary, his chauffeur-driven car, his roomy offices in the House of Commons and the huge staff commanded by the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition.

He will return to the lower ranks of the back benches. He is 50 and has been in the House 22 years. His constituency in the Welsh community of Islwyn is one of the most loyal in the nation, so he will probably stay there for a long time.

Politics is his vocation and livelihood. He has no academic credentials, little prospect of a place in a university.

Unlike Mrs. Thatcher, who was relegated to the back benches 17 months ago, Mr. Kinnock is not a world figure. He cannot command huge fees on the lecture circuit.

In parting, he has at least the consolation that the endless vilification of him by the press will cease.

Of the 19 national daily and Sunday newspapers that publish in Britain, only two or three -- the Independent and the Financial Times, and to a lesser extent the Guardian -- even attempted objective reporting on the election.

Most twisted and distorted every event, every utterance he made in the campaign in a determined effort to discredit Mr. Kinnock.

At his departure yesterday, he quoted the words of a former Conservative Party treasurer, Lord McAlpin, published in the Sunday Telegraph, who wrote that "the heroes of this campaign" were the publishers of four Conservative newspapers.

"Never has their attack on the Labor Party been so comprehensive. . . . This was how the election was won."

Mr. Kinnock agreed: "The Conservative supporting press has enabled the Tory Party to win yet again when the Conservative Party could not have secured victory for itself on the basis of its record, its program or its character."

The relationship between the press and the Conservative Party, he added with a suggestion of resignation, "is a fact of British political life."

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