Neil Kinnock: Corbyn 'may come to own conclusions' over leadership

Neil Kinnock

Neil Kinnock has suggested that Jeremy Corbyn will need to consider his future if he fails to connect with the wider electorate “after a reasonable space of time”.

As Ed Miliband welcomed the growth in Labour membership under Corbyn’s leadership, Kinnock said he found it difficult to see how he could be elected prime minister.

In an interview with the New Statesman, Kinnock said: “If Jeremy is seen to be failing to connect to the electorate after a reasonable space of time then he may come to his own conclusions. People who join the party in order to uphold the interests of care and justice and opportunity and security will then make their own judgment regardless of who they voted for in 2015.”

Kinnock, who began the long process of reform within the Labour party after his election as leader in 1983, highlighted the criticisms of Corbyn’s supporters among some members of the shadow cabinet. Many critics of the leader and his team have claimed they put greater emphasis on controlling the Labour party than winning overall power to govern Britain.

The former Labour leader said: “There’s a fundamental question here and it is whether people want to secure power in the party or to win power for the party. Those people who want to win power, whether they’re left, right or centre, will be watching the evidence and will make their decision on the basis of that evidence. Not because of some spasm of emotion, or the fact that their candidate didn’t get elected: they’ll want to know they have a party that is being led in its advance with the electorate. If that isn’t the case then conclusions must be drawn.”

But Kinnock warned critics of Corbyn not to follow the example of the former Labour cabinet ministers who left the party in 1981 to found the breakaway SDP. “Anybody advocating a split in the Labour party has got to face the reality that they would be letting the Tories rule the 21st century just like they mainly ruled the 20th century,” he said.

Kinnock spoke out as Miliband, who tried to build up a new grassroots base for the Labour party under his leadership, welcomed the growth in party membership during and after last year’s leadership contest. In an article for the London Review of Books, Miliband called on Labour to build on the “remarkable number of new members it has gained” since his general election defeat and Corbyn’s election as leader.

Miliband wrote: “Labour needs to use its expanded membership to build deeper roots in local communities, and to help people find the collective power to change things.”

The former Labour leader added: “In a way I didn’t manage, it [Labour] needs to reinvent itself as a genuine community organisation.”

He added: “The party emerged from the traditions of community organising, and some local Labour branches are now rekindling that spirit. To succeed, the party needs to be about more than knocking on doors, crucial though that is, and the passing of resolutions.”

But he also called on the party to “acknowledge the challenge it faces”. He said: “This is a tough time to be a progressive in Britain, with the re-election of a government that seems determined to dismantle the progressive institutions that remain and to make inequality worse. Labour’s renewal must be built on ideas, the most underrated commodity in politics. Ideas create and sustain movements and inspire people – and indeed voters – to join a cause.”

The former Labour leader did not mention the Momentum movement, established by Corbyn supporter Jon Lansman to build on the grassroots movement of his successful leadership campaign. Critics of Corbyn in the party fear that Momentum is designed to destabilise MPs who are critical of the leadership.

When he resigned as party leader Miliband signalled that he planned to steer clear of Labour’s internal politics and focus instead on broader issues such as inequality and climate change.

His latest article builds on an impassioned address he gave in June to the Commons about inequality. “The deep injustices of modern capitalism compel us to find a better way of living together,” he wrote, adding: “It can’t any longer be denied that the scale of the rewards reaped by the 1% has the effect of denying others. The scale of the effect is, of course, particularly visible in the London housing market, with wealthy buyers, many of them from outside the UK, pushing up prices and putting London out of reach for a great many people.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicholas Watt and Matthew Weaver, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 27th January 2016 17.28 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010