Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Labour Party Election Broadcast (21 May 1987)

Courtesy of the Labour Party

Main image of Labour Party Election Broadcast (21 May 1987)
Tx. 21/5/1987, 10 mins, colour
DirectorHugh Hudson
Production CompanyJohn Gau Productions
SponsorThe Labour Party

With: Neil Kinnock; Barbara Castle; John Smith; Denis Healey; Sadie Jones; Glenys, Rachel, Bill and Stephen Kinnock

Show full cast and credits

A party election broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party, concentrating on the background, personality and beliefs of the Labour leader, Neil Kinnock.

Show full synopsis

Labour's 1987 general election campaign was the most carefully and centrally controlled of any party's up to that point, introducing a 'campaign grid' mapping out those policies the party would discuss on particular days. Peter Mandelson and Philip Gould - subsequently closely associated with New Labour - played leading roles behind the scenes: it pointed to the future.

Labour's problem in 1987 was that many of its policies - on critical matters like the economy and defence - were unpopular. Moreover, it couldn't rely on newspaper support - most were in the Conservative camp, while even the Daily Mirror had doubts about unilateral nuclear disarmament. However, in Neil Kinnock, Labour had a leader who was more well-liked by voters than his party. Strategists decided that the campaign would therefore avoid policy as much as possible and focus on Kinnock the man. It would be an unprecedented television-based, 'presidential' campaign.

The centrepiece was the party's first Party Election Broadcast, soon dubbed 'Kinnock: the Movie', filmed by Hugh Hudson, director of the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire (1981) who had considerable experience in making commercials. It makes no mention of specific policies, instead presenting Kinnock the family man, the human being. While it did make certain political points - Kinnock questions the nature of 'freedom' under the Conservatives and makes a passionate case that only a strong welfare state can liberate ordinary people's potential - but these are subsumed within the focus on his personal qualities.

Such was the broadcast's impact - it provoked an immediate rise of 16 per cent in those who thought Kinnock an effective leader - Labour took the unprecedented step of showing it again later in the campaign. Not everyone, however, was pleased. 'It made my blood run cold', Tony Benn wrote in his diary - by then Benn was a far-left opponent of Kinnock's attempt to moderate party policy.

Labour's campaign was so well organised, the Conservatives briefly feared they might lose the election. In truth Thatcher's re-election was never in doubt. Labour's policies were still problematic so far as many voters were concerned - a good campaign and a well-orchestrated television image could only go so far. Ironically, by the 1992 election Labour's policies accorded better with popular opinion but by then - possibly in reaction to 'Kinnock: the Movie' - the Conservative tabloids, most notably the Sun, had savagely undermined Kinnock's image, transforming him from a pleasant young man into a vacillating 'Welsh Windbag'.

Steven Fielding

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete broadcast (10:04)
Hudson, Hugh (1936-)
Party Election Broadcasts