I stayed up last night to listen to a gem of a broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Great Lives is a series where for each broadcast a guest gets to nominate a great life and a studio panel then analyses that life together with the guest. On this occasion the guest was Lord Kinnock of Bedwellty, a former leader of the Labour Party, and the great life he chose was that of Aneurin Bevan, commonly dubbed the founding father of the British National Health Service. The presenter was Matthew Parris, a political journalist and former Conservative MP, and the other panel member was John Campbell, who has written a biography of Nye Bevan. To Kinnock, Bevan was a local hero, for both men grew up in the Welsh mining town of Tredegar and Kinnock, as a boy and youth, met the great man on several occasions. Kinnock and Campbell have ‘form’; the latter once accused the former of inappropriately donning Bevan’s mantle. To be fair, I am sure that Campbell would now agree that, mantles aside, by the end of his period of leadership of the party Kinnock had become a sort of hero in his own right. There were hints of the old needle: when Campbell likened Bevan to Kinnock’s old enemies, Tony Benn and Arthur Scargill, Kinnock was quick to point out that, unlike Benn and Scargill, Bevan had played a constructive role. But what came across wonderfully well, I felt, were Kinnock’s atmospheric reminiscences and anecdotes about Bevan in the valleys (and he tells them well). These included an account of how he and his fellow under-aged drinkers had scarpered out of the back door of a pub as their demi-god walked in the front door after one of his characteristic walks on the mountains. When I wrote my biography of Kinnock, the part of the research I most enjoyed was when I went to Tredegar and met all sorts of wonderful and lovable characters who simply adored Nye and Neil and a third man, the greatest keeper of Bevan’s flame, Michael Foot, who passed away last March at the ripe old age of 96 (Foot’s majestic two-volume biography of Bevan has pride of place on my bookshelves). Neil adored ‘Footie’, as he called him, to the end and he has now taken his place as the keeper of the flame – and quite right, too.