Interview The Times
Stephen Kinnock has told hard left activists who are more interested in protest than forming a government to quit the Labour party.
In a sideswipe at some of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, the newly elected Labour MP said that failing to concentrate all their energies on regaining power was a betrayal of Labour’s history.
Mr Kinnock’s father Neil spent two parliaments as Labour leader battling against the far left and groups like Militant Tendency as he tried to make the party electable after the debacle of 1983 when Labour suffered a landslide defeat to Margaret Thatcher after fighting on a manifesto dubbed “the longest suicide note in history.”
Members who were not happy with helping Labour to become a credible opposition should leave the party, he declared.
“We are not a protest movement, we are not an NGO, we are not a pressure group,” he told The Times. “The betrayal of the founding fathers would be to be a party that is no longer seen as a party of government.
“The point of the Labour party is to govern, to give working people a voice. If you don’t believe in that, you should not be a member of the Labour party; go and join another group.”
Kinnock also urged Corbyn to be ready to compromise with the moderates within the party.
“Compromise is an incredibly important part of leadership. As a leader, you’ve got to set your strategic objectives, and sometimes that means compromising along the way. For me, the strategic objective of the Labour party is to win elections, to be in government so that we can make a difference to people’s lives.”
Speaking ahead of the Welsh Assembly elections next May, the MP for Aberavon said Labour needed to re-engage with the electorate and focus on becoming a credible, electable party if they were to retain their 30 seats.
“We’ve just lost the election, so clearly we are not a party of government,” he added. And while he admitted that divisions within the party are not entirely the fault of the Labour leader, it is a “by-product of his leadership”.
He stressed to those in his party to stop focusing on Corbyn’s leadership and to begin crafting new narratives to win over the electorate.
“Who our leader is, of course, always matters, but what matters at least as much as is what our leader is saying, and what the narrative is,” he said.
“There are people who are absolutely passionate and fired up by Jeremy as leader. Then there are people who are quite the opposite. I think we have to go on that journey where it isn’t marmite anymore, where there is reaching across into the middle and finding those people who are not quite so passionately one way or the other. If you don’t do that, you are not going to win elections.”
He went further, calling for a complete overhaul of Labour ideas.
“The Labour party has not really renewed its intellectual framework since the early 90s, with the build up to New Labour and winning in 1997. It’s way overdue that we create something new that realises the Tories are creating massive problems.”
Mr Kinnock published a pamphlet of ideas over the summer, which included calls for Labour to help reclaim patriotism. The Welsh MP is launching the Stronger In campaign for Wales on Thursday.
“We have got to start to craft a new, progressive form of patriotism, harnessing civic pride from within our communities and building a country that’s confident, to look out, engage with the EU,” he said.
As recent polls have predicted, Mr Kinnock agreed that Ukip could win up to nine Welsh Assembly seats next May. As a result of the additional members system, parties who fail to win a constituency seat but still gain a portion of the vote can win some of the 20 regional seats in Wales.
Ukip came second in a number of seats at the general election, with strong patches of support in North Wales and the Valley areas.
“They are sowing the seeds of division in a way that is, unfortunately, getting some traction,” Mr Kinnock said. “It’s not a good story for anybody.”
He was positive that Labour could hold on to government, but stressed that if they should lose seats, they should look to a confidence and supply agreement with Plaid Cymru and not a coalition government as in the past.