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Tribute to Baroness Kinnock

Baroness Kinnock: 7 July 1944 – 3 December 2023 | Image by: ArchivalSurvival / Alamy Stock Photo

4 min read

Glenys Kinnock was a life-long democratic socialist and a passionate campaigner for peace and social justice at home and abroad. Kind and compassionate, she was both my role model and my friend

Glenys Kinnock was my friend and, as for so many women around the world, she was my role model. She was kind, compassionate, a determined feminist, a passionate campaigner for peace, security, anti-racism, gender rights and social justice at home and throughout the world.

Glenys was a consummate juggler, a fantastic teacher then superb politician as well as a super supportive, loving wife to Neil, a brilliant, protective mother to Steve and Rachel and a fantastic friend. Her family was the most important part of her life. During the tough times when Neil, with her strong support, was shifting the Labour Party from the anti-EEC, anti-Nato party of opposition to a party capable of government, she – whilst maintaining her career and her campaigning – was the lynchpin. She provided a loving, secure space at home where wider family and close friends always found a warm welcome, excellent food and often much laughter. Later she loved being a grandmother, known as Nain, to her grandchildren who would take pride in their Welsh roots.

She was steeped in the Labour Party. Her first experience of campaigning was in 1945 when her father, an active trade unionist, delivered leaflets from her pram. Her parents, Cyril and Bet, instilled the values in Glenys that shaped her life, encouraged her to work hard and to become a citizen of the world. She was a life-long democratic socialist and her politics were always practical, understanding that words without action would not lead to the changes that were necessary in her community, in our country and in the world.

Her family was the most important part of her life

In 1989 Glenys, whilst still a teacher, was one of the founders of a charity, One World Action, that supported partner organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America in fostering active citizenship to tackle poverty and injustice. When elected to the European Parliament in 1994 – with the biggest majority on record – it was inevitable that her focus would be on international development, co-chairing Europe’s joint parliamentary assembly with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. She was held in the highest esteem by global leaders, including Nelson Mandela, with whom she had a close relationship.

Glenys was a great campaigner, from her membership of CND and the anti-apartheid movement as well as the Labour Party from the age of 16, to being one of the most sought after supporters of candidates during and between elections. In addition to her sound politics she was wonderful with people of all ages, sharing stories, laughing and occasionally crying with them.

I was hugely proud to serve alongside Glenys on the red benches when she came to the Lords in 2009 as the minister for Europe, then Africa, the UN and was given responsibility for global violence against women. She made her maiden speech responding to a debate on the ‘responsibility to protect’, and she spoke of the need to “tackle the structural causes of conflict which include social and economic inequalities, impunity and injustice”, issues that had for her been the catalyst for action throughout her life.

I remember the day when Glenys told me of her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, we wept, but she showed the same courage that she had shown when visiting war torn countries such as Eritrea, or confronting terrorists in various parts of the world. She knew, however, that this was a fight that could not be won. I am glad that she is now, in Neil’s words, “liberated from that hideous disease” and I will continue to think of her with admiration and love, so very proud to have known her.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon is a Labour peer

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