Tony Blair has made his predictable intervention in the Labour leadership contest. At an event with the Progress think tank in London this morning, the former Prime Minister made his pitch for the New Labour-ish direction Labour should be heading. Unsurprisingly, it’s somewhat different to the sentiments that have dominated the leadership race so far:
‘We won not because we did what we thought was wrong as a matter of principle but right as a matter of politics; but when we realised that what is right as a matter of policy is right as a matter of principle. ‘Labour shouldn’t despair. We can win again. We can win again next time. But only if our comfort zone is the future and our values are our guide and not our distraction.’
In typical Blair fashion, he offered up a simple five-point plan to fix the Labour party:
- Get thinking about ‘real policy not one liners which make a point’
- Regain economic credibility
- Learn from forward thinking Labour councils
- Develop a dialogue with business about their challenges and needs
- Work out what a political organisation looks like today
Sound familiar? In case you were wondering, Blair reminded the audience ‘2015 is not 2007 or 1997’, telling Labour it needs to ‘move on but don’t move back.’ Strikingly, Blair said that a Corbyn-esque platform isn’t something he would support under any circumstances: ‘I wouldn’t want to win on an old fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.’
He didn’t hold back on the SNP either, describing nationalism as ‘caveman politics’ and urged his party to take on the SNP’s record in office. And for those Labour supporters who are wrapping themselves in a Corbyn comfort blanket, Blair said ‘people who say their heart is with Corbyn, get a transplant’. In response, Corbyn has said ‘I think Tony Blair’s big problem is we’re still waiting for the Chilcot Report to come out’.
Although Blair did not directly criticise Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband, he had some choice words about why Labour lost the last two election:
‘We lost in 2010 because we stepped somewhat from that modernising platform. We lost in 2015 when we stepped even further away from it and lost even worse. I don’t understand the logic of stepping entirely away from it.’
Yet for all of his sensible talk about winning back Tory voters and sticking to the centre ground, Blair faces the same problem as Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt and Chuka Umunna: the Labour party apparently does not want to listen to him. But Blair is not going away, even if Jeremy Corbyn is victorious. ‘I’m Labour through and through, I fought the 1983 campaign for the Labour party,’ he said.
Still, Labour activists can take comfort from the fact he is actually a Tory in disguise and the sentiments of the party’s only leader to win a general election since 1974 can therefore be safely ignored.