Ambrose Evanspritchard

A question of loyalty

The old lefty Neil Kinnock backs Britain, says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. But Chris Patten is batting for France.

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Brussels

When push comes to shove, I think I know which side Neil Kinnock is on. Eight years in Brussels – as propriétaire of Boris Johnson's crummy old digs at 76 rue van Campenhout – have not really gone to his head. Yes, he appears dutifully on the BBC as vice-president of the European Commission to justify persecution of the Metric Martyrs, while spitting off-air at the madness of hounding a Newcastle grocer for selling bananas by the pound. Just as dutifully, he once upheld the Labour policy of British withdrawal from Europe, against his better judgment, waiting until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 before committing his party to the position that served it so well – until this week. But that is because he is a man who values loyalty and discipline.

Toiling in the engine room of the EU, he nudges forward the cause of free markets. If we, today, can fly the whole family to Pisa for £100 on Ryanair, it is in no small part because Neil Kinnock faced down the airline monopolies as transport commissioner. If the director-general of agriculture is no longer, by divine right, a Frenchman, it is because Kinnock has broken up the national fiefdoms in his slow, painful reform of the EU's bureaucracy. He does exactly what a commissioner should do. He reflects the philosophy of the country he represents, without breaking his pledge and treaty obligation to work impartially for Europe's collective interest.

Whatever his deepest feelings about the Iraq war, he never forgot that he had at least a minimal duty not to make matters worse at a very delicate moment for the government that had appointed him. So while others ran down their own country at those intimate little dinners, over Cabillaud and C