UK Politics

Kinnock warns Labour against 'perpetual demonstration'

Neil Kinnock Image copyright Getty Images

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock has warned the left against returning to an era of "perpetual demonstration".

He said some in the labour movement were resorting to "a posture of resistance" and "corrosive" self-indulgence.

Lord Kinnock was speaking to BBC Newsnight ahead of the closure of the UK's last remaining deep mine coal pit, Kellingley in North Yorkshire.

Earlier this month he endorsed Andy Burnham in the Labour leadership race.

Commenting on the state of the labour movement more generally, Lord Kinnock said the left needed to decide if it wanted to compete for power or simply register a protest.

"I can see why people are angry and want to protest," he said. "But then they've got to make a decision on whether they want to be part of a labour movement that produced a political party to seriously contest for democratic power - or they want to be in perpetual demonstration, which is fulfilling and noble, but rarely effective."

Coming after a series of warnings over the last week from Labour grandees including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that the party would make itself unelectable by choosing Jeremy Corbyn as leader, his comments are likely to be interpreted as a thinly veiled attack on the Labour frontrunner.

Lord Kinnock said he understands that people are frustrated as a result of austerity measures, and are searching for a "simpler set of political answers".

But asked whether Corbyn's success in attracting large numbers of younger supporters reflected a resurgence of the left he said: "the reality is simplicity is rarely present amongst the real answers to the challenges that face the great mass of people today."

Lord Kinnock was interviewed by BBC Newsnight at the end of July for a film about the demise of the British coal industry which airs on Monday night.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Brown said repeatedly that Labour could not become a party of protest

On Sunday, former prime minister Gordon Brown said the next Labour leader must be "credible" and "electable" in order to win back power.

Mr Brown said he was not attacking any individual candidate in the leadership race, but his comments have been interpreted as a thinly-veiled warning against Jeremy Corbyn.

Watch the full report on Newsnight at 22.30 on BBC Two on Monday 17 August.