Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock visited Birmingham and urged Gordon Brown to show more of his “heart and guts” as well as his brains if he wants to win round the electorate.
During a visit to the University of Birmingham on Thursday, the veteran Labour politician, known for his fiery and passionate rhetoric, expressed frustration at the Prime Minister’s difficulty in connecting with the public.
He described Mr Brown as a man of “innate gifts”, but added he would “make life easier for himself” if he “showed off” a bit more rather than just focusing on the detail of getting the job done.
Lord Kinnock, whose modernisation programme provided the springboard from which New Labour swept to power in 1997, said: “The awkward thing about politicians is that they really do need brains, heart and guts.
“Most essential is brains. But democratic politics must be expressed in the voice of the political activist and must be authentic. It must really address the realities in which people live, not some airy fairy distance.
“To do that you need not just intellect, you need heart-felt conviction and the gut instinct that makes you want to serve.”
Lord Kinnock, now European Commissioner, said he knew Gordon Brown had those qualities but they were not properly communicated to the public.
“I have known him since his early 20s. He earned his reputation in the House of Commons as a dazzling debater with all the facts at his fingertips and an ability to deliver with humour, with vitality.
“But if you say to Gordon ‘be yourself. Raise your voice’, he says ‘I am not going to do that because the newspapers ask me for it - I am here to serve not act’. That is Gordon. It is one of the things you really admire.”
However, when asked what advice he would give to the Prime Minister, the veteran politician said: “He has got such marvellous innate gifts that he would make his own life easier if he showed off a bit.
“You don’t often advise people to show off. I don’t mean be a stand-up comedian or entertain - I always say if you want that buy a ticket to the circus.
“This is about the serious business of running the country in the best way, but I just think he would have an easier time if, the phrase I use, is drop your shoulders.”
Lord Kinnock is credited with turning Labour from the unelectable party of the 1980s into the one that emerged in the 1990s. The strategy won him many enemies within his own party.
A close fought election campaign in 1992 ultimately saw Labour again defeated, crushing Kinnock’s hope of becoming leader of the country. Shortly after, he resigned as party leader.
Referring to the current Prime Minister’s leadership difficulties, Lord Kinnock said: “There is only really one thing going on. That is a very tiny number of people are self-indulgent and are not sustaining the kind of loyalty that is required to maintain forward momentum.”
He dismissed Conservative leader David Cameron’s lead in opinion polls over Mr Brown as “temporary” and maintained there would be a swing to Labour at the polling station where it really mattered.
The Labour peer claimed the current crisis in the money markets had provided the test that would enable Mr Brown to shine.
“Nobody would have wanted this as a way of proving the prowess of the Prime Minister. But what we are seeing at the moment in circumstances that no one would have foreseen is the talent, the dedication, the service and the steadiness of Gordon Brown and the Government that is fit to take us through these immensely difficult times.”
Lord Kinnock was visiting the university to launch a new exhibition entitled Overcoming Dictatorships, featuring the work of artists depicting the shift towards democracy in the former Communist countries of Europe.
The exhibition, part of a 2006-09 project funded by the European Commission, closes on November 9 and will then be seen in each of the home countries of the contributing artists.