This week you might be forgiven for thinking that a well-known political dynasty was all that stood between Britain and disaster. You simply could not escape them, or their alarmist rhetoric. If we vote to leave the EU, they argue, we will have chosen ‘devastation and destruction’.
Take the family patriarch for example. Sporting a bizarre combination of dark glasses and a beige mac, the ageing windbag told a youth rally in London that the promises of the Brexit campaign were ‘pants’, ‘pure fantasy’ and ‘didn’t add up’. Clearly, the years have done nothing to diminish his verbosity.
Meanwhile, the formidable clan matriarch was urging female voters to consider the benefits she says EU legislation has afforded their gender.
In Westminster, meanwhile, the couple’s enigmatic son and heir was threatening what sounded like a parliamentary coup in which MPs will effectively ignore a win for Brexit if the British public has the temerity to vote against the family’s wish.
All in all, the trio is expelling a lot of hot air for the cause. And the family in question? It could only, of course, be the Kinnocks.
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock of Bedwellty, his wife Lady Kinnock of Holyhead and son Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, have all been busy banging the drum for Remain.
It’s amusing to remember, however, that it was not always so in their household. Forty-one years ago, Neil Kinnock was a leading figure in the campaign for Britain to vote to leave the then European Economic Community. He believed then that it threatened British jobs and industry.Now, he is vigorously promoting the opposite view. So what could he possibly have seen on the EU gravy train — which has enriched his family by many millions of pounds — to make him change his mind?
Almost 25 years have passed since the crown at Westminster slipped through Kinnock’s fingers. But that was not the end of his political career. Not by a long chalk.
Since that devastating 1992 General Election defeat — Kinnock’s second in a row — he and his family have existed in a lucrative public sector bubble, notably in relation to the European Union; highly paid, publicly funded jobs followed by mega-pensions for the parents, and what amounted to sinecures for their children (their daughter Rachel has also enjoyed the fruits of the public purse).
The figures are astonishing. Between them Lord and Lady Kinnock are entitled to draw six publicly funded pensions, with a total income estimated to be worth around £250,000 a year. Some of that comes directly from the British taxpayer. But the key to the riches was their Damascene conversion from Europhobes to Eurocrats. Former school teacher Glenys Kinnock — that original classroom profession provides one of her pensions — was the first to reach Brussels. In 1994 she was elected to the European Parliament as the MEP for South Wales East. It was the safest European seat in the country.
She received a salary of £31,686 — almost as much as a Westminster backbencher at the time — but was able to claim expenses totalling well over £100,000 a year.
Neil Kinnock stepped down as a Parliamentary MP in 1995 (a job that also gave him a pension). He left to take up a £140,000-a-year post as the European Commissioner for Transport.
The perks included a £21,000 allowance for living abroad, a £6,000 entertainment allowance, generous pension scheme, and free life and health insurance. First-class travel on business trips, plus his own chauffeur and limousine — available round the clock — and relocation expenses for the move to Brussels completed the package. They bought a ‘modest’ house in the city — a property once the home of the then newspaper correspondent Boris Johnson, who, of course, is now leading the Brexit campaign.
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