Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Defeat from the Jaws of Victory:Inside Kinnock’s Labour Party

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Using original research from archives, interviews with MPs and party officials, and first hand testimonies from grass roots activists, the authors go behind the scenes to name names, record the votes, and lay bare the machinations of those who led the Labour Party to electoral defeat in 1992.

“I’m in it to win. That’s my attitude to life and to politics.”—Neil Kinnock, December 1989

Defeat from the Jaws of Victory takes the reader behind closed doors to witness Kinnock’s Labour hierarchy in action—fixing votes, stage-managing meetings, dispensing patronage to favourites and settling scores with enemies.

Riding high on the backlash against the Bennite rebellion of the early 1980s, Kinnock went on to build the most autocratic regime in Labour’s history. Centralizing power in a vastly expanded private office, he destroyed the party’s democratic structures, stripped it of any trace of radical policy, and purged it of hundreds of dissident members. Every nook and cranny of the Labour machine was filled with careerists whose primary qualification was personal loyalty to their leader. Under Kinnock’s aegis the party ran up a £2.5 million overdraft, and proved incapable of removing an unpopular Tory government in the midst of the worst recession since the war.
Heffernan and Marqusee employ extensive research in Labour’s archives and interviews with leading MPs, party employees and constituency members to chronicle, with unsparing accuracy, a decade-long drive for power which was ruthless, reactionary and, in the final analysis, spectacularly unsuccessful.