Sunday 23 March 2014

From spelt rolls and caffe latte to sulphur - Stephen Kinnock

Stephen Kinnock was yesterday selected as Labour candidate for Aberafan, and the BBC and other mainstream UK media sources have all played a very straight bat in their reports, recording only his selection, a few quotes from a press release thanking the local party for their support and the usual promises to stand up for local people. Not reported by the BBC, Guardian, Western Mail, South Wales Evening Post, etc. was a claim from a New Statesman journalist that Kinnock Junior squeaked home by just one vote:

Stephen Kinnock selected as Labour candidate for Aberavon by 106-105 votes.

Stephen Kinnock is of course son of Baron Kinnock, formerly known as Neil Kinnock, and Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, formerly Glenys Kinnock, one-time Member of the European Parliament. He is also married to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark and leader of the country's Social Democrats, and together they have two children. Helle Thorning-Schmidt has held the top job in Danish politics since 2011.

He was born in Tredegar but went to school in London before graduating from Cambridge. Most of his career to date has been spent working as an executive for the British Council in St Petersburg, Sierra Leone and Switzerland. In 2009 he became a director of the World Economic Forum (the annual gathering of leading figures from the worlds of politics and big business in Davos, Switzerland), and in 2012 he became a director of Xynteo, a consultancy firm which advises big business on "resource-efficient growth".

At Xynteo Stephen Kinnock is Managing Director of Global Leadership and Technology Exchange, a partnership which brings together companies including Shell, Unilever and Tata. Tata Steel, which operates the steel works in Port Talbot, would appear to be Stephen Kinnock's only link to the constituency.

If the UK press has so far not had much to say about Stephen Kinnock's latest career departure, the Danish press is full of comment and speculation. In fact, the Danish press provides a great deal more colour and background on yesterday's meeting in Aberafan than rather more local newspapers.

Berlingske, the leading quality daily, says that the smokestacks of Port Talbot are a light year away from the trendy surroundings of the  Østerbro district of Copenhagen, which is where Stephen Kinnock spends his weekends with his wife and family. Smart shops, spelt rolls, freshly brewed barista coffee and private schools contrast with the pervasive stench of sulphur in Port Talbot, the paper says, before adding that even the locals describe the town as a "shithole".

Reporting on the constituency party's meeting in Aberavon Beach Hotel yesterday, the paper says that the vote went to a recount.

Berlingske also speculates that Stephen's move may mean that his wife has plans to move on to a new job outside Danish politics on a broader international stage. Her supporters have a feeling, it says, that they are not sure how much longer they will have her. 

Whatever Ms Thorning-Schmidt decides to do, it is unlikely that she will be moving to Aberafan and taking up a seat on Neath Port Talbot council any time soon.

Politiken, Berlingske's main rival, also reports that the vote yesterday was extremely close. It notes that other candidates included the Mayor of Neath, Parmjit Dhanda (former Labour MP for Gloucester) and someone who won £32,000 on Who wants to be a millionaire?

The paper says that Stephen Kinnock's campaign promises included securing more jobs in Port Talbot, and that he has said he "knows how decision makers think" and can use this to raise the constituency's profile. 

Stephen Kinnock has also featured prominently in the Danish press for other reasons. In 2010 the Danish media questioned his tax affairs. Denmark has one of the best welfare systems in the world, and income and other taxes are high by international standards. Unlike Britain, there is also much less of a gap between rich and poor.

Understandably, it did not go down well when it emerged that Stephen Kinnock, scion of a Socialist dynasty, was based for tax purposes in Geneva, which is something of a tax haven in the low tax destination of Switzerland. Mr Kinnock told the press at the time that he was based in Denmark for less than 180 days a year. The threshold which would have qualified him for Danish tax was 183 days.

In 2009 Kinnock told Politiken, "When I come home on Fridays, I take over the running of the house. I cook, wash the clothes and drive the children to all their activities. I am a well known face in Super Best (a local supermarket)." Apparently that was not enough to qualify him for residency in Denmark as far as the tax man was concerned.

Another newspaper reported that the family home in Copenhagen was owned only by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and that this meant the couple were able to take maximum advantage of a tax allowance on mortgage repayments. Prior to that a local TV station reported that Stephen Kinnock used diplomatic status as a reason for not paying tax in Denmark.

In the ensuing row Kinnock told the Danish press that he had found himself in a tax grey zone and that he would voluntarily start paying tax in Denmark. According to Danish sources he later reconsidered this promise and decided not to pay tax in Denmark after all.

Aberafan has returned a Labour MP at every election since 1922.

Y Cneifiwr -  Fårklipperen


Anonymous said...

Are the Labour party on some suicidal mission to self destruction? Stephen appears to be a wealthy man with a talent for tax avoidance, little experience of real life, a political family background,and a very narrow squeak through the selection process.
He probably expects to win the Westminster seat effortlessly, quickly establish himself in British Labour politics and hopes he'll eventually be a prime minister too, like his Mrs.
I expect it may all go horribly wrong. At least he's got the ideal talents to get into any of the other British Parties should he decide to jump ship?

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, bet UKIP is at this ,oment trawling for a credible candidate - if you can put those two words together!

Anonymous said...

He will win the seat,put a red rose on a donkey and they
will vote it in over there.Another Labour hypercrit into

gaynor said...

Borgen meets Hinterland, heads will roll mun.... mark my words

Anonymous said...

The people of Wales are getting what they deserve, another useless member of the Kinnock family, this man speaks five languages his mother speaks Welsh, is Welsh one of Stephen's five languages? Why not give the British establishment parties a bloody nose and vote for a dedicated Welsh party?

Scotland did and are reaping the rewards.
There's talk of an English comedian standing in the vacant Westminster parliamentary seat of Neath, another case of the London Labour Party treating the Welsh like a bunch of fools