Neil Kinnock was a much derided and hated individual by the right wing press in our country.
In our pre-Blair Labour supporting household, I have to admit that he was considered something of a “windbag” who lacked real political depth.
After yesterday’s highly unexpected defeat of the Labour Party by the Conservative Party under David Cameron though a speech came to my mind that he delivered in Bridgend, Glamorgan, on 7 June 1983, it was two days before Mrs Thatcher had a resounding victory despite a first administration full of class warfare and policies that were based on giving aid to the rich at the expense of the poor.
The reasons that his speech came to mind was that he gave a powerful warning about the “victims” of Thatcherite Government. It resonated with me because the last Government has introduced cuts in public services that are due to the need, they say, for austerity following the 2008 economic collapse caused by greedy bankers.
Theere have been Old People’s Centres closed down, there are free food Co-Ops floourishing, a huge increase in family poverty and a huge number of unemployed youth who can look forward to never owning a home and having to work till they are in their seventies or beyond in order to quaify for what will become a reduced pension (compared to today’s values).
When Kinnock delivered the speech he knew that he was going to lose. His voice was almost gone from days of continuous speechmaking in a doomed cause. The speech was from the heart and remains one of the most moving and effective speeches that I ever heard.
It would have fitted so well in response to Cameron’s victory yesterday.
Here is the transcript of the speech and below is a link to a video clip from the speech.
“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
– I warn you not to get old.”