In and exciting new collaboration of Longford in-depth articles on Welsh art and culture between Wales Arts Review and The Western Mail, Jonathan Edwards explores the impact of Welshness and language on Neil Kinnock’s political career and the unlikely influence it had on Edwards’ own award-winning poetry, all stemming from a childhood encounter.
In 1992, Glenys Kinnock sat in my father’s car.
1992 was the year Neil Kinnock would become Prime Minister. Everyone knew it. The polls predicted a Labour win. The Conservatives were reeling from the uproar around the Poll Tax and the replacement of Thatcher with Major. The Sun was so worried that, on election day, it printed on its front page a picture of Kinnock’s face in a light bulb, together with the headline, If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights. Election day was the 9th of April. In a couple of days, a Welshman would be in Downing Street.
1992 was also the year my father rebuilt a twenty-five-year-old bright red MG Roadster, spending months tapping and tinkering, poking and polishing. His abilities as a mechanic were a legend in his own mind and an annoyance in my mother’s kitchen, where she cleaned oil stains and cursed his name. I’d take a cup of tea out to him in the garage, and find him with car parts laid out all over the floor, like some sort of gleaming jigsaw. The man himself was on his back, feet sticking out from under the end of the car, like a tall man in an undersized bed, as he prodded away at this and that as if trapped underground, chinking his way towards the light.
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Jonathan Edwards is a poet and critic from Newport, south Wales, and recent recipient of the Troubadour Poetry Prize in 2022. His first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren), won the Costa Poetry Award in 2014.