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Not lost for words

Biden’s 1987 plagiarism victim hails his win

Neil Kinnock, former leader of UK’s Labour Party whose prose Biden lifted during first run at White House, says president-elect has ‘wise, adult calm’

Then Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., Democrat-Delaware, holds a news conference in Washington to announce he is withdrawing from the Democratic race for the presidential nomination, September 23, 1987. (Ron Edmonds/AP)
Then Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., Democrat-Delaware, holds a news conference in Washington to announce he is withdrawing from the Democratic race for the presidential nomination, September 23, 1987. (Ron Edmonds/AP)

LONDON, United Kingdom — When he first ran for the White House in 1987, Joe Biden’s candidacy was destroyed by a plagiarism row. But the British politician whose words he lifted has paid warm tribute to the new US president-elect.

Neil Kinnock, a former leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour party, told AFP that Biden’s qualities include “wise, adult calm, and that will ensure great service to the USA and, indeed, to the world.”

“He’s got a hell of a tough task in the present conditions of crisis,” Kinnock, who also served in the European Union’s executive commission, said in an email.

“But he’s a truly tough guy, and you can tell that because he just gets on with the job and doesn’t boastfully proclaim his toughness continually like the last fellow — what’s his name?”

Neil Kinnock, former leader of Britain’s opposition in Manchester, England, September 29, 2010. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Biden, then a senator, was one of the favorites for the Democratic nomination ahead of the 1988 presidential election.

But during the campaign in 1987, he was forced to withdraw after it emerged that he had borrowed heavily, without attribution, from a speech given earlier that year by Kinnock as Labour leader.

Kinnock recalled his last meeting with Biden, at the Democrat’s Senate office, in 2007.

According to the email, Biden self-mockingly introduced the Welshman to his staff with the words: “Folks, meet my greatest ever speechwriter, Neil Kinnock!”

During that 2007 visit to Washington, Kinnock said they later met for a “convivial supper” and Biden told him that an up-and-coming senator called Barack Obama would likely become the next Democratic president.

“Sadly, I didn’t place a bet,” said Kinnock, who was invited by Biden to attend Obama’s 2009 inauguration, when Biden became vice president.

Pundits on both sides of the Atlantic have predicted the Biden White House will be less friendly to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson than was his fellow populist Donald Trump.

Kinnock said Biden would “re-establish a relationship of mutual trust with the EU, value a civil association with the UK without being effusive, and show firmness in dealings with China.”

He added that Russian President Vladimir “Putin, meanwhile, should not expect a convivial Christmas card” from Biden.

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