Letter from Wales: The Neil Kinnock interview pt1

by Julian Ruck

I recently interviewed Lord Kinnock at the Angel Hotel, Cardiff and within minutes it was clear that his political passion and socialist instincts were well and truly intact. Indeed, his parting shot to me was, “Julian, what did you expect, I’m a bloody socialist!”

Not much to argue about there then.

Neil looked good. Trim, well preserved and still full of pulpit Welsh hwyl, as a couple of lady guests at the hotel were soon to comment. It was Neil’s deep Welsh brogue that seemed to send them into a swoon and as far as they were concerned, to hell with politics!

Anyway, the old war horse, never short of a word or two, was generous with his time. 1hr and 50 minutes to be precise, so readers of Uncut will understand that in order to do Neil and the interview justice, I have decided to break his observations and my take on them into two Letters.

So, let’s begin with Neil’s view on Ed Miliband:

“I’ve supported him from before day one……I said to him if David has got the guts to run against his brother who are you to back down? Ed showed nothing but courage in taking his brother on.”

As the interview progressed Neil’s loyalty to Labour’s leader became more explicit, and who can criticise loyalty, where would politics be without it?

“If you watch Ed closely and believe me I have, particularly when he is talking to the man in the street or grassroots, he is totally engaged; they get his full attention and interest. David now, he lacks people skills, for instance when talking with someone and whilst not intending to be discourteous, he scans the room to see if there is someone of greater significance. It’s a misfortune if anything, not a desperate character flaw, he’s a nice man.”

He went on:

“Ed is gutsy, brainy and as cool as hell. There’s all this stuff in the press, ‘Is Ed weird?’ Well, yes he’s weird, but then so was so was Churchill and Wilson, and Thatcher was the weirdest  of the lot.I guess leadership produces some ‘oddness!’ The press decided Ed wasn’t fit to fill his brother’s shoes and that was that, and the press just hates to be proved wrong, they honestly believe they should determine elections.

Look at Ed’s record over the last 4 years, actually make that 3 1/2 years , we conceded the first 6 months to the Tories to plant the mythology about ‘the mess that Labour had left the country in’, so they got that crucial 6 months of free play and I think that has done them more good than anybody anticipated.

In these four years Ed has shown immense courage in not only taking on his own brother against the odds, but also in taking on big targets, out of absolute sincerity. Murdoch, Energy, banks, predatory capitalism and he has done it without fear or favour. He’s the guy who by ensuring that the Labour party didn’t vote for military intervention in Syria had the courage to keep us out of what would have been a desperate quagmire of further military engagement. This took sheer guts and the application of intelligence.

The way he was scorned, initially, with “the squeezed middle”,” the British promise”,” one nation”, all these phrases when he first used them and explained what he meant by them, were derided but within months, if not weeks in some cases, became part of the political context.”

JR: “Yes but there is one big flaw in what you say. What about the voters views of Ed? Or the mass mind, if you like?”

NK: “His flaws are manufactured, caricatured. The press is focused on destruction which certainly compares, if not exceeds, my own experience and I don’t say this with whining complaint but,objectively examined, this is certainly demonstrated to be the case.

So, what does he do to address this?

Ed unlike Churchill, isn’t a drunk, he’s not a megalomaniac either. He won’t go off the political rails like Tony Blair. He’s brave, he’s brainy and he’s measured. He has terrific resilience and you want that in a leader.

In a changing world you don’t want somebody who is going to wave his arms around on the bridge when he can see the storm coming. Now you just compare Cameron, whose stock in trade is to appease rather than confront anyone who challenges him in the Conservative party and who is always looking for a  head line when we need a strategy. His serial appeasements have got us into a position where our future is a lot more fragile than it should be.

You’ll never get this from Ed Miliband because he’s just too steady. That’s what must get through to the public.”

On Europe?

No room for debate here. Neil is all for being ‘in’ for practical economic and political reasons and that’s that – “there’s no such thing as ‘outfluence’ so how can we reform from an empty chair?”. He did pass on one little titbit.

“Conclusions of European Council meeting (26/27 June 2014):

‘As one of the fundamental freedoms of the European Union, the right of EU citizens to move freely and reside and work in other Member States, needs to be protected, including from possible misuse or fraudulent claims.’

So much for David Cameron’s plans to re-negotiate the rules on freedom of movement.

To conclude then, this writer must observe that cynicism is the artful dodger of political sincerity. Neil had some points to make and he was going to make them.

The consummate politician, now and again during the interview I felt there was lack of boldness in respect of Welsh politics, loyalty again no doubt and these matters will be explored in another Letter. Neil is a Tredegar boy and certainly hasn’t forgotten his roots, but I remain unconvinced as to whether this is a good thing in an age of 21st century middle ground and indeed ‘middling’ election victory.

I detected more of Nye Bevan than Tony Blair!

Julian Ruck is a novelist, broadcaster and columnist. His most recent novel is ‘The Silver Songsters’ (pub. April 2014)


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20 Responses to “Letter from Wales: The Neil Kinnock interview pt1”

  1. Ambassador says:

    When you state that you interviewed Kinnock, what you actually mean is:

    You sat in a room (with 40-50 other people) to listen to him speak and asked a question at the end.

    You had me spitting out a Ferrero at the audacity of this piece of gurnalism. Oh well, I have plenty more where that one came from!

    Ambassador

  2. fred says:

    “In a changing world you don’t want somebody who is going to wave his arms around on the bridge when he can see the storm coming. Now you just compare Cameron, whose stock in trade is to appease rather than confront anyone who challenges him in the Conservative party and who is always looking for a head line when we need a strategy. His serial appeasements have got us into a position where our future is a lot more fragile than it should be.”

    Attacking Murdoch, then appearing in a photo happily holding The Sun, then apologising for doing so hardly seems the actions of a man with a steady hand on the tiller. Kinnock is even worse with the media. All the press will pick up on is that even Kinnock thinks EM is weird.

  3. Ambassador

    I’m confused. Are you saying that Julian Ruck *didn’t* interview Kinnock at all? What was this event at which 40-50 people were present? Surely Uncut wouldn’t run an ‘interview’ that was simply someone sitting in on a public talk?

  4. Robert says:

    Kinnock sold out years ago his socialist principles he lost them under Blair, but the issue is he is 100 of Miliband well everyone is.

    I cannot say what Kinnock is these day I’ve not seen him, he may have made a very good leader, sadly he did not, blame whom you like.

    But Miliband is not a leader the bloke cannot make a simple decision without it hitting him back

  5. Tafia says:

    You didn’t interview Kinnock did you. You sat in a room with an audience and got to ask a question.

    By these standards I could claim to have interviewed the Queen, Prince Charles, Lady Di, Cyrus Vance, General Morrillon, Lord Owen, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, Paddy Ashdown Nicholas Soames and a shed load more.

    But I didn’t. I just sat in an audience over a period of 20 years and was lucky enough to ask a question.

    But I scalped more than the amateur scribbler it seems.

  6. Delta says:

    I have never felt so sorry for an interviewer before. Kinnock, possibly the most embarrassing failure in British Political history, the greatest hypocrite, totally incapable of seeing anything beyond what benefits him and his kin defending a leader who has given his son a safe seat lol.

    No complexity, no morality, no vision and no talent. This GE campaign is going to be fun! More Kinnock please 🙂

  7. wg says:

    What @Delta said – when I was a young man I hung on every over-eloquent word this speciman spouted.

    Those words are dust now and Kinnock, along with the would-be interviewer above, have shown how shallow the political pool in this country is.

    The disgrace of the Lisbon Treaty being pushed through, the austerity and misery inflicted on poorer countries because the EU wished to create their United States of Europe no matter what, whilst Kinnock and his family have had their snouts shoulder-deep in the EU trough – all these things should make Kinnock and his family ashamed of themselves, but it doesn’t.

  8. The Judge says:

    Ruck ‘interviewing’ Kinnock is a bit like one of those World Cup games where you want both sides to lose.

  9. To those who doubt,

    I interviewed Neil on Thursday 3rd July 4pm at the Angel Hotel, Cardiff. It had been arranged between myself and Neil about two months previously.

    There was no ‘public event’. There were no 40-50 people in attendance. It was a one to one in a quiet hotel lounge.

    There were however two ladies sitting on a settee behind us, who no doubt were able to hear some of the interview and thus commented in a good humoured way, on Neil’s voice.

    Should anyone be in any doubt as to the veracity of the above, then do please feel free to contact Neil’s office at the House of Lords.

    The imaginative determination of some of you people to discredit and smear me, continues to impress.

    Still, I suppose if Ruck hating makes you happy feel free.

    All the best,

    Julian Ruck

  10. Tafia says:

    Still hardly anything of any significance. A chat in a hotel lobby with two old dears in attendance.

    By the way. My mother (in her 70’s) chats with Neil Kinnock all the time on his private mobile number etc. She’s known him 40 years. Would you like me to put a word in?

  11. Ex Labour says:

    Attacking Julian Ruck instead of looking at what Kinnock said is a little silly.

    Kinnock, well on board the European gravy train where he is paid hansdomely and with vast pensions, thinks the EU is great. Well I never !

    Kinnock saying Ed is fantastic when his kin has been taken stright to the bossom of the party. Well I never !

    This man is an absolute disgrace to the Labour party and is far worse that those political opponents he accuses of having their their snouts in the trough. Another case of so called socialists living the champagne lifestyle at the taxpayers expense and lording it over everyone.

  12. Mr Akira Origami says:

    “You didn’t interview Kinnock did you. You sat in a room with an audience and got to ask a question.”

    Perhaps you should have phoned your mother before making the above comment.

  13. Lizzy Salander says:

    Mr Hewson, I am sorry to hear you are confused.

    Kurt has the same problem, but taking Jussi for long walks helps.

    Here is a link that might be helpful to you.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10964854/One-hour-of-exercise-a-week-can-halve-dementia-risk.html

    Oh, and isn’t it fantastic for Labour Uncut to have an interview with Helle’s svarfar Mr Hewson!

  14. Dave says:

    Massive lol at all the posters above criticising the Ruckmeister on the invalid point that he didn’t interview Kinnock. Don’t you have better things to do?

    Go Ruck go!

    On the substance of the article, I find Kinnock’s unwavering faith in Miliband genuine and endearing. But it isn’t well placed I fear, and I don’t trust Kinnock’s contemporary political judgement.

  15. Paul Flynn says:

    When will journalists who pretend to know about Wales acquire the knowledge that the Welsh Assembly is responsible for Health and Education in Wales? Just had a frustrating time carefully explaining to a journalist, who claims to specialise in these matters, that MPs are no longer responsible. His questions reveal that he has swallowed all the self-serving myths that Tories are propagating in their WAR ON WALES. My constituency is threatened with the theft of hundreds of Shared Services jobs in the name of Tory privatisation ideology. The Newport workers have saved the UK £120 million while the privatiser Seria has wasted £56 million. Next move is Government gives new contract to Seria. Rewards for failure. Punishment for success. Something worth writing about, Mr Welsh Specialist journalist?

  16. Dear Mr Flynn,

    My apologies if you felt the conversation we had was frustrating for you, but do allow me to point out the following:

    I am surprised that you have posted the above on Uncut. According to your good self earlier today, you had neither heard of me nor Uncut, albeit that you telephoned me following an emailed interview request three days ago.

    It does seem a trifle odd does it not, for an MP to call someone out of the blue without having done some background checks?

    As for my ‘questions’, they were few, as you were intent on throwing personal insult and barrages of determined Welsh nationalist historicisms at what can only be described as some polite requests for your informed opinions on matters Welsh.

    I stated clearly that I was concerned with democratic principle in Wales and the ‘parlous’ state of Welsh education. I also stated on a number of occasions that you were being unnecessarily offensive, when all I was trying to do was seek your opinion.

    Your view throughout was that I was raising and I quote ‘piddling matters’ and that I was ‘obsessed with urban myths and anti-Welsh Tory propaganda’.

    I couldn’t help but be reminded here of Mark Drakeford’s recent wails of Westminster ‘slanders’.

    I eventually put the phone down on your relentless attempts to denigrate me personally, frankly I’ve heard better!

    Mr Flynn, you ‘carefully explained’ nothing, all you did was bully, bludgeon and insult, and I defy you to deny one word of the above.

    As far as I am concerned, as an experienced and veteran Member of Parliament who has done some good work in his time, you merely diminished yourself and the aspirations of a modern, forward thinking Labour Party, nothing more nothing less.

    With disappointment,

    Julian Ruck

  17. Lizzy Salander says:

    Perhaps Welsh MPs should have a pay cut if they are now not responsible for Health and Education.

  18. Mr Akira Origami says:

    “self-serving myths that Tories are propagating in their WAR ON WALES”?

    Do you mean, informing the people of Wales of the truth about the Welsh Assembly run Education and Health Service.

    If there is a “war” it is a WAR ON LEFTY LOONIES that instigated the disaster of the Assembly.

  19. John abell says:

    If asked to choice who’s versions of events I believed out of Julian Schmuck, liar, bigot and chauvinist, or Paul Flynn, mp and author, I’d go with mr Flynn every time.

  20. To Paul Flynn,

    How extraordinary.

    A quick perusal of your Twitter account reveals your Tweeting associations with Lee Waters (IWA), and Welsh literati Seren Books, Peter Finch and Jon Gower to name but a few.

    Well I never!…as they say in Wales.

    Julian Ruck

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