Neil Kinnock

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Neil Kinnock

Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock, PC (born 28 March 1942) is a British politician. As a member of the Labour Party, he served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995, first for Bedwellty and then for Islwyn. He was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1983 until 1992, and Vice-President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004.


  • The army of brokers, jobbers and other quaintly named parasites.
  • Devolutionary reform will not provide a factory, a machine or jobs, build a school, train a doctor or put a pound on pensions.
    • South Wales Echo (1 November 1975)
  • The House of Lords must go - not be reformed, not be replaced, not be reborn in some nominated life-after-death patronage paradise, just closed down, abolished, finished.
    • Tribune (19 November 1976)
  • [T]he only reason why I espouse centralism now, the central organisation and co-ordination and government of our resources in this country, and would like to see much more of that co-ordination and organisation and control and democracy of resources in a Socialist country, is that I think that it is a structure that can give the best advantage to the people—the people I think I am here to represent, working-class people, irrespective of their nationality.
  • We live in a country afflicted by a senile and selfish capitalist system...where families are homeless, sick people unattended, children untaught whilst building workers, nurses and teachers are unemployed
    • ‘Introduction’, in Why Vote Labour? (1979), p. 2, quoted in Tudor Jones, ‘Neil Kinnock's socialist journey’, Contemporary Record, Volume 8, Issue 3 (1994), p. pp. 568–569
  • [Labour has] always believed that the community as a whole should have a greater control over these “commanding heights of the economy”.
    • ‘Introduction’, in Why Vote Labour? (1979), p. 3, quoted in Tudor Jones, ‘Neil Kinnock's socialist journey’, Contemporary Record, Volume 8, Issue 3 (1994), p. 569
  • [Labour's] socialist argument recognised that the system of economic gambling, commercial whim, speculative profiteering and profligate waste of the earth's resources that is dignified by the title 'private enterprise' is increasingly demonstrating its inability to meet human needs for food, employment, security and fulfilment.
    • ‘Forward into the Eighties—the Choice’, in Why Vote Labour? (1979), p. 19, quoted in Tudor Jones, ‘Neil Kinnock's socialist journey’, Contemporary Record, Volume 8, Issue 3 (1994), p. 569

Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

  • By emphatically pressing the view that it is only possible to support radical Labour policies by supporting Tony Benn, Tony's associates have turned the contest into a gamble with policies, [yet any] disagreement with those claims has been slandered as 'opportunism', 'careerism' and evidence of every kind of departure from socialist conviction and purpose. That is the truly dangerous product of these months of contest.
    • "Personality, Policies and Democratic Socialism", Tribune (18 September 1981)
  • Heckler: At least Mrs Thatcher has got guts.
    Neil Kinnock: It's a pity that other people had to leave theirs on the ground at Goose Green to prove it.
    • On TVS television's programme The South Decides during the 1983 general election campaign, quoted in The Daily Telegraph (7 June 1983). Kinnock was forced to write letters to the families of the war dead to apologise.
  • If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you. I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend upon payment. I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right. I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can't pay. I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don't notice and the poor can't afford.

    I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don't earn, they don't spend. When they don't spend, work dies. I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light. I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding. I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up. I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

    If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. And I warn you not to grow old.

    • Speech in Bridgend, Glamorgan, on Tuesday 7 June 1983. Thursday 9 June 1983 was polling day in the general election. Quoted in Robert Harris, The Making of Neil Kinnock (1984), p. 208
  • The roots of defeat which were put down by some of the elements of our party in the two or three years after 1980 made victory difficult to achieve.
    • On the Labour Party's defeat in the 1983 general election, quoted in The Times (10 June 1983), p. 1
  • I don't believe that the policies on which we fought the [1983] election ought to be ejected like some sort of spent cartridge.
    • Tribune (15 June 1983)
  • I didn't come to it intellectually, I came to it pragmatically. What intellectual appeal there was came initially entirely from Bevan mainly because of the way in which Bevan, in speech and writing, articulated exactly what I was feeling.
  • When I started to encounter Marxism at 16, the elementary truths of the surplus value theory and more than anything else, the logical argument that he produced that labour was the source of all wealth, gave me a political and intellectual justification for what I believed in a way that nothing else did.
  • Someone up there likes me.
    • Remarks to reporters on surviving a high-speed car crash (13 July 1983), quoted in Robert Harris, The Making of Neil Kinnock (1984), p. 223

Leader of the Labour Party

  • If anyone wants to know why we must conduct ourselves [with commonsense and realism], just remember at all times, with all temptations, how you, each and every one of you sitting in this hall, each and every Labour worker watching this conference, each and every Labour voter, yes, and some others as well, remember how you felt on that dreadful morning of the tenth of June. Just remember how you felt then, and think to yourselves: 'June the ninth, 1983, never ever again will we experience that.'
  • We support the efforts to keep the pits open until exhausted.
    • The Scotsman (12 March 1984)
  • [Margaret Thatcher is a] stubborn Salome who wants the miners' heads on a plate.
    • Speech in Gloucester during the miners' strike (25 January 1985), quoted in The Times (26 January 1985), p. 2
  • I'll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council—a Labour council—hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers. I'm telling you - and you'll listen - you can't play politics with people's jobs and with people's services. The people will not abide posturing.
    • Speech to the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth (1 October 1985)
  • We believe there should be reforms in the EEC which would benefit all the members. If these were not achieved, our policy is to preserve the ultimate option of withdrawing Britain. That option would not, this time, need a referendum, as it did before.
    • On Labour policy regarding the EEC (8 January 1986)
  • I'm a father. And no matter how much I try to convince myself towards the course of 'enlightenment' I know damn well that, put to the test, I'm what people would call a reactionary. I know it. I try and rationalize it but it's no good. I come to the same conclusion all the time. My children stand a chance of being hurt in the forseeable future by what's called permissiveness.
    • Interview with Everywoman magazine (28 August 1986), quoted in The Times (4 September 1986), p. 16
  • Those who have the immense dishonesty to fight with a ballot box in one hand and a rifle in the other have no place in democratic politics.
    • On the Provisional IRA; speech in the House of Commons (23 October 1986), reported in Hansard, 6th series, vol. 102, col. 1287
  • That sort of fundamentalism which treats possession of private property not as a desirable economic and personal asset but as a condition of liberty is a form of primitive religion.
    • Speech to National Housing and Town Planning Conference, Bournemouth (28 October 1986)
  • Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?

    Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

    • Speech at the Welsh Labour Party conference, Llandudno (15 May 1987)
      • This speech was extensively quoted in a Labour Party election broadcast during the 1987 general election. It was also used, without attribution, by then U.S. Senator Joe Biden, later President. Biden had used and properly attributed the speech many times before.
  • David Frost: If you haven't got nuclear weapons, the choice in that situation would be to subject your forces to an unfair battle.
    Neil Kinnock: Yes, what you're suggesting is that the alternatives are between the gesture, the threat, or the use of nuclear weapons, and surrender. In these circumstances the choice is posed, and this is a classical choice, between exterminating everything you stand for and the flower of your youth, or using all the resources you have to make any occupation totally untenable.
    • Television interview with David Frost on TV-AM (24 May 1987), quoted in David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh, The British General Election of 1987 (1987), p. 103
  • What has happened is that there are people who, for reasons best known to themselves, have voted for maintaining division in our country.
    • Remarks following the Labour defeat at the 1987 general election (12 June 1987), quoted in David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh, The British General Election of 1987 (1987), p. 103

Later life

  • In the years between our defeat in 1979 and our defeat in 1983 Labour was increasingly seen to be a party slipping towards impossiblism, succumbing to fads, riven by vicious divisions, speaking the language of sloganised dogma – and usually voicing it in the accents of menace. It was almost as if sections of the party measured the purity of their socialism by the distance which they could put between it and the minds of the British people.
    • ‘Reforming the Labour Party’, Contemporary Record, Volume 8, Issue 3 (1994), p. 535
  • [A]lterations in policy had to be made with continual reference to the need to be elected in order to be able to put principles into power. I repeatedly had to reinforce the message that the real penalty for our defeat was paid by the unemployed, the poor, the sick, the young and the old that the Labour Party existed to help.
    • ‘Reforming the Labour Party’, Contemporary Record, Volume 8, Issue 3 (1994), p. 540
  • I manifest no paranoia when I say that there has been in the Labour Party an element which has treated realism as treachery, regarded appeals to party unity as an excuse for suppression of liberties and scorned any emphasis on the importance of winning elections as a contaminating bacillus called 'electoralism'.
    • ‘Reforming the Labour Party’, Contemporary Record, Volume 8, Issue 3 (1994), p. 540
  • Oh I detest him. I did then, I do now, and it's mutual. He hates me as well. And I'd much prefer to have his savage hatred than even the merest hint of friendship from that man.




  • Wankers and whingers.
    • Attributed to Kinnock by Stuart Weir, "We stopped Boadicea's chariot", New Statesman (27 November 1998) p. 33.
    • Kinnock's private description of Charter 88 at the time of their launch. Kinnock later signed the Charter.

Quotes about Neil Kinnock

  • In the Financial Times this morning Mrs Thatcher was reported as saying that two more terms of office would exterminate socialism. I saw Clare Short, who asked if I had seen it, and I replied, "Yes, but I think she'll have a job to outdo Kinnock."
    • Tony Benn, diary entry (19 November 1986), quoted in Tony Benn, The End of An Era: Diaries, 1980–90, ed. Ruth Winstone (1992), p. 480
  • It has been one of Mr Kinnock's themes that Labour has to modernise itself, that it has to appeal not only to the man on the dole but to the man with a mortgage, not only to a manual labourer, but to a computer expert; it has to redefine its idea of class to accommodate social trends.
    • Charles Moore, 'Kinnock's Cop Out Book', The Spectator (24 November 1984), p. 6
Wikipedia has an article about: