Obama Picks Senator Who 'Stole' Neil Kinnock Speech as His Running Mate; RIDING A WAVE: Joe Biden with His Wife Jill at His Home in Delaware after Yesterday's News. below Left: With Barack Obama at a Rally in April

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Byline: William Lowther

BARACK Obama has rejected Hillary Clinton and chosen 65-year-old Senator Joe Biden - one of his fiercest critics - to become his vice-presidential running mate in the race for the White House.

The highly controversial selection will infuriate Mrs Clinton's millions of supporters as the Democratic Party opens its nominating convention in Denver, Colorado, this week.

Mr Biden is also recognised as being gaffe-prone, and was forced to drop out as a candidate for president in 1988 after it was discovered his best speech had been plagiarised from then British Labour Party leader Neil - now Lord - Kinnock.

Since then the two men have become firm friends and Lord Kinnock said last night that the last time he saw Mr Biden, the senator introduced him to aides by saying: 'Do you know this guy? He used to be my greatest speechwriter.' Earlier this year, with Mr Biden again running as a presidential candidate, he denounced Mr Obama by declaring he simply didn't have enough experience for the top job.

'Obama is not ready to be president,' Mr Biden said in a TV interview that is now certain to become the centrepiece of Republican Party advertising as they focus their attacks on America's first major black presidential candidate.

Mr Biden went on to specifically point out that Mr Obama, 47, didn't have enough experience of foreign policy.

And asked at the time if he would consider running as vicepresident, Mr Biden said: 'I am not running as vice-president. I would not accept it if anyone offered it to me.' Those close to Mr Biden said last night that the Delaware senator now regretted his remarks, as Mr Obama had proven in the last three months that he was 'the right man at the right time' and Biden was 'deeply proud' to be his running mate.

Mr Obama has chosen Mr Biden because of his enormous foreign policy and defence experience - he is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He hopes it will balance his own near-total lack of foreign policy background and help counter Republican charges that the world is far too dangerous a place to trust the White House to such a newcomer.

Mr Obama is known to dislike

Mrs Clinton, but he was under enormous pressure to pick her as vice-president because she won so many votes in the presidential primaries and because she continues to attract the white working class that remains suspicious and unsure of him.

The Obama camp is alarmed that despite their leader's unquestioned charisma he is still running neck-and-neck with the 72-year-old Republican nominee, John McCain. …