History / Politics

‘We have a dream’: The best of Neil Kinnock

To mark the 75th birthday of Neil Kinnock, here are twenty-five quotes from the former leader of the Labour Party.

‘If Mrs 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. I warn you not to get old.’ (1983)

‘We can only defend the have-nots of our country and the world, if we secure the support of the “haven’t-got-enoughs”, yes, and in addition, those who “have enough”.’ (1983)

‘We are all producers of wealth.’ (1983)

‘[Socialism is] the most rational, reasonable and emancipating creed known to humankind.’ (1983)

‘There is only one way to lead and that is from the front.’ (1984)

‘Those who prate about Blimpish patriotism in the mode of Margaret Thatcher are also the ones who will take millions off the caring services of this country. I wonder they don’t choke on the very word patriotism.’ (1984)

‘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. Outdated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up with the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council!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.’ (1985)

‘Why am I the first Kinnock for a thousand generations to go to university?’ (1986)


‘I would die for my country, but I could not let my country die for me.’ (1986)

‘I keep telling the Soviet leaders when I meet them that their language about development and liberation will lack any credibility until they pull down the Berlin Wall. The wall must come down in the next twenty-five years.’ (1986)

‘Nobody in or associated with Sinn Fein is welcome within a million miles of the Labour Party.’ (1986)

‘We don’t chase off to some ultra-Left Disneyland where insurrection and general strikes are supposed to bring capitalism crashing to the ground.’ (1987)

‘Other than liberty itself, nothing is more important to the people of this country than the National Health Service.’ (1987)

‘If the party is not a party of self-discipline and of will to win, you might have to look for someone else.’ (1987)

‘Defeat does not appear on my agenda.’ (1987)

‘There are lots of ways to get socialism, but I think trying to fracture the Labour Party by incessant contest cannot be one of them.’ (1988)

‘We have a dream, but we are not dreamers.’ (1988)

‘I am heartily sick of meeting people in anguish and having nothing to offer them but sympathy and solidarity when we should have the power to give them real hope.’ (1988)

‘[Militant are] Toytown revolutionaries who pretend that the [poll] tax can be stopped and the government toppled by non-payment.’ (1990)

‘What’s at issue in this election is not the soap boxes that prime ministers stand on. It’s the cardboard boxes that people live in.’ (1992)

‘An electorate burdened by private debts, haunted by the prospect of unemployment, fearful of the effects of underfunding in the health service, has spurned the Tories’ grubby invitation to sell its common sense and conscience for the sake of pre-election pennies.’ (1992)

‘Politics isn’t the only thing in life.’ (1993)

‘I will regret to my dying day that I failed to lead you to the victory you deserved.’ (1994)

‘The best advice is collar, tie, shiny shoes, a degree of formality and detachment. Even if that doesn’t win hearts, it doesn’t offend minds.’ (1999)

‘If people say I am too serious, quite honestly there is a lot to be serious about.’ (2008)


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