Tony Blair says Labour has failed as his comeback continues

Written by James Millar on 3 April 2017 in Diary

The former Prime Minister defended his legacy in a new interview and urged Labour to get its act together

Tony Blair has called on the Labour party to show more "urgency" in a new interview in which he defended his New Labour project and called Brexit "the defining moment in British history".

The former Prime Minister spoke to MPs Wes Streeting and Ruth Smeeth for Progress, the Labour group often characterised as 'Blairite' in outlook.

He mounted a stout defence of his 10 years in Number 10 insisting that he did not lead a 'neo-liberal' administration or that New Labour lacked principles. He explained: "We've got to demystify New Labour. All New Labour was, was an attitude of mind. The attitude of mind is to say the values remain fixed but the means of their application shift with shifting times."

He added: This idea that we were some neo-liberal government. We made massive investments in health and education. We founded, for example, the department for international development which has helped save millions of lives worldwide. For us to denigrate our own record is crazy." 

And inevitably the only Labour PM to win three general elections on the trot had something to say about the state of his party under Jeremy Corbyn. He said Labour had "failed in what is our fundamental duty to the British people, that is to be a competitive opposition. Just ask yourself one simple question: in the Prime Minister's office, in Tory high command, how much of their time do they spend worrying about the prospect of a Labour victory at the present time? I would guess zero."

Blair was first elected to parliament in 1983 at the start of the Labour's long road back to power. Perhaps surprisingly he had praise for Michael Foot, the man often accused of leading Labour into the wilderness after its 1979 election defeat. Blair contrasted Foot as a "great man" and "big, big parliamentary figure" who could hold the Thatcher government to account with current leader Jeremy Corbyn who had only ever been a backbencher before getting elected as party leader in 2015.

Blair called on young MPs like Streeting and Smeeth to show more "urgency" in the face of Brexit which he characterised as "the defining moment in British history." The former PM, who stood down in 2007, recently wound up some of his business concerns apparently to give him more time to commit to the ongoing Brexit debates. He warned that Labour must challenge Theresa May's strategy and make the argument about jobs and prosperity. He said: "Is Brexit the right answer to the cultural and economic strains of globalisation? The answer is no. Were' going to end up in an intellectual and political cul-de-sac." 




Picture credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

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