Election 87 Revisited: Corbyn’s Kinnock Moment

The morning headlines make for grim reading following Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil last night.

Corbyn is not the first, and won’t be the last, to be skewered by the best political interviewer in the business.

In another political age, it was David Frost who destroyed Neil Kinnock’s slender hopes of winning a General Election.

In 1987, Neil Kinnock was enjoying a positive campaign and some Conservative strategists were worried about Labour’s organised and professional approach compared to 1983.

That all fell apart on a Sunday morning breakfast show when Kinnock was forced to explain Labour’s defence policy.

Kinnock fell into the trap of answering a hypothetical question on a Soviet invasion and implied that Britain did not need a nuclear deterrent. He argued that you would have to use ‘the resources that you’ve got to make life untenable’.

A media storm ensued as Kinnock was accused of relying on ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘guerilla warfare’ to defend Britain

Kinnock tried to claim he was talking about NATO, but a hostile press refused to give him an inch of leeway.

On an issue that the public was already sceptical about Labour’s plans, he appeared far too relaxed to be a Prime Minister.

He lost control of the narrative for the rest of the campaign and Tories sensed a weakness. The confusion led to a Tory poster campaign depicting a British soldier surrendering with his hands above his head: ‘Labour’s Policy on Arms’

The result was a third Conservative victory in a row.

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