I Warn You (Neil Kinnock’s 1983 Bridgend Speech)


I recently re-read the transcript of Neil Kinnock’s speech at Bridgend made , I think, a couple of days before the June ’83 election, and, warning from history that it now is, is even more prescient and relevant now…it still has the power to move me to tears.
No, it’s not a piece of “found poetry”, because Kinnock already had the poetry in him, and delivered in biblical cadences, …and the layout here is not particularly skilful by myself , just following the logic of the lines… But, as I say, it moved me, enough to want to reproduce it.

“If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as Prime Minister,
I warn you.

I warn you
that you will have pain
– when healing and relief depend on 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,
she will be more a Leader than a Prime Minister.

That power produces arrogance
and when it is toughened by Tebbitry
and flattered and fawned upon by spineless sycophants,
the boot-licking tabloid Knights of Fleet Street
and placement in the Quangos,
the arrogance corrupts absolutely.

If Margaret Thatcher wins –

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.”

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