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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 10:07 GMT
First 100 days: Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock's first task as Labour leader was to haul the party back from the brink of destruction and, 100 days in, most pundits believed he had just about succeeded - for now.

Neil Kinnock
Elected leader: Oct 1983
Age when elected: 41
Defeated rivals: Roy Hattersley, Eric Heffer, Peter Shore
The party had just suffered a heavy election defeat under his predecessor Michael Foot, haemorrhaging votes to the newly formed Liberal/SDP alliance.

Mr Kinnock - young, telegenic and self-consciously modern - had succeeded in narrowing the Conservatives' poll lead to just one point.

But the jury was out on how long he could keep this early momentum going - and hold a warring party together.

He was berated by pundits on all sides for his apparent reluctance to take on the hard left, summed up by what was seen as a half-hearted condemnation of the behaviour of print workers on a picket line in Warrington.

Press reaction was mixed.

'Hard left'

The new Labour leader had performed "adequately" in his first few months, Nicholas Comfort wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

In electing the Huff and Puff Man the Socialists have made their gravest mistake since Kier Hardie put on a cloth cap
The Sun

"However, Mr Kinnock and his associates have no wish to break the spell by talking about detailed policies.

"Nor has the 'hard left', which sees itself as the guardian of conference decisions, yet made an overt challenge, though no one doubts that it may well do so after regrouping following its own election setbacks, including the loss of Mr Wedgwood Benn."

The Sunday Times said Mr Kinnock was "a vast improvement on what went before," but said he "talks too much when he has nothing to say" and had too much of the TV pundit about him.

Hugo Young, writing in the Guardian, said Mr Kinnock had "done the party a surprising amount of good in an astonishingly short space of time".

"Many people said in June Labour was finished for ever. Although they may yet prove to have been right - as we look back in, say, 1995 - the evidence to support the verdict now is less overwhelming than it seemed to be six months ago."

Benn 'liability'

The new leader "took himself seriously", had "miraculously" avoided talk of policy and had even hired MORI "to find out what the public think".

But the "hard left" remained a problem and its champion Tony Benn - regarded by Mr Kinnock's supporters as a "clear liability to the new model Labour Party" - was seeking the Labour nomination for the Chesterfield by-election.

The Sun also raised the spectre of the hard left.

The paper ridiculed Mr Kinnock as the "huff and puff man", saying his first parliamentary term in charge had been a "sad disappointment".

"We have been told that Mr Kinnock has been quietly at work inside the party, trimming the power of the left," it said in a scathing editorial.

"He has been so quiet, we have not noticed it. We have observed no weakening of the extremists."

It concluded: "Let's just say that everyone concerned for the future of the Labour Party must regret that in electing the Huff and Puff Man the Socialists have made their gravest mistake since Kier Hardie put on a cloth cap."

What happened next: Neil Kinnock went on to confront the hard left militant element within the Labour Party as he set about making the party electable. He saw off the threat to its future posed by the SDP/Liberal alliance. He fought two elections as leader, cutting Mrs Thatcher's majority in 1987 from 144 to 102. But he resigned after failing to get a majority in the 1992 General Election at which he slashed the Tory majority to 21.


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