An event in preparation for eighteen months, the rally was held at the Sheffield Arena, an indoor sports venue in Sheffield, England. It was attended by 10,000 Labour Party members, including the entire shadow cabinet, and is reported to have cost some £100,000 to stage. It was the idea of strategist Philip Gould, who was involved in the subsequent successful election campaign of Bill Clinton later that year. The party leader, Neil Kinnock, was flown into the city by helicopter.
The rally was modelled partly on American presidential campaign conventions, with sound and light performances on the stage and celebrity endorsements played on a large video screen. At one point in the proceedings, Kinnock and the shadow cabinet paraded to the stage from the back of the venue, passing through an increasingly enthusiastic audience, with the shadow cabinet being introduced with titles such as "The next Home Secretary" and "The next Prime Minister"; Labour had been in opposition for 13 years and had already lost three consecutive general elections to the Conservatives.
This culminated in an emotional and animated Kinnock taking the podium and shouting four times "Well all right!", which has often been re-broadcast since as an example of overconfident campaigning. Kinnock followed this by proclaiming "We'd better get some talking done here, serious talking."
Although Labour's internal polls at the time suggested the event had little effect on the level of support for the party, media commentators, and some prominent Labour politicians, thought the rally came over as "triumphalist" to television viewers of subsequent news programmes.
The election eight days later was a victory for the Conservatives, who finished 8% ahead of Labour in voting, but with a much smaller parliamentary majority than in 1987. It is widely regarded as one of the most surprising election results of the 20th century, as pollsters had predicted a narrow Labour majority or a hung parliament.
Mirroring Labour's poll results, several analysts and major participants in the campaign believe it actually had little effect. Jim Parish, Senior Campaigns Officer for the Labour Party from 1985 to 1993 and an organiser of the rally, wrote: "The catastrophic 6–7 per cent drop in Labour support occurred before the rally and was – I am reliably informed – known in Sheffield that night." Polls conducted in the final week of the campaign continued to show either the two main parties neck-and-neck or Labour slightly ahead, as they had done prior to the rally.
Some accounts suggest the event only received widespread attention after the election, an opinion Kinnock shared in April 2010: "It wasn't until about ten days after the election that people started writing about the 'hubristic Sheffield rally' and all the rest of it."
In a 1995 interview for the BBC Two documentary series The Wilderness Years, Kinnock said: "...all of the years in which I'd attempted to build a fairly reserved, starchy persona – in a few seconds, they slipped away." In the 2010 New Statesman interview, Kinnock clarified his opinion on the effect of his performance at the rally. He said: "Given my time again, I wouldn't repeat it – but the great legend is complete, bloody rubbish."
- "Key Issues in the 1992 Campaign", BBC News, Politics '97
- Obituary: "Lord Gould of Brookwood", telegraph.co.uk, 7 November 2011
- Stephanie Barnard "Kinnock came and didn't conquer", BBC News Sheffield & South Yorkshire, 27 July 2009
- Parish, Jim (1 January 1999). "It was tax what lost it for Labour". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Wells, Anthony. "Polls from 1987-1992".
- Westlake, Martin (2001) Kinnock: The Biography, pp.560–564
- Alyssa McDonald "The NS Interview: Neil Kinnock", New Statesman, 29 April 2010
- Michael Leapman "'Rush of blood' was Kinnock's downfall", The Independent, 26 November 1995