Blair warns Labour against ‘traditional leftism’ – not for power, but on principle

22nd July, 2015 1:28 pm

Tony Blair

Tony Blair today warned Labour about shifting to the left, but not simply to win elections – arguing that the choice “between the pursuit of power and the purity of principle” was a false one.

Speaking to members of Progress on the 21st anniversary of his own election as Labour leader, Blair declined to endorse any candidate in the current race. However, he made clear he did not think Jeremy Corbyn should win, and heavily implied that Tom Watson should not be elected deputy leader.

The former Prime Minister began his speech by saying he did not want to make “a speech about how you win”, but rather make a principled defence of his beliefs.

In a clear jibe to Corbyn’s candidacy, Blair said that he “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 later made clear that he did not think moving left would deliver victory, when he explicitly described Corbyn as the “Tory preference” in the contest, and joked that those whose “hearts” are with Corbyn should “get a transplant”.

Twice before Blair has publicly warned against pandering towards UKIP’s stance on immigration, and reiterated the view today that “blaming immigrants” was wrong. On this occasion he added that it would be “no more” right to attempt to ape the SNP in order to win back votes in Scotland than it would be to ape UKIP elsewhere. “I don’t know if this is a winning strategy,” he said, “but at least it’s one I believe in.”

In the Q&A session that followed, he said that being anti-immigration was “foolish” in the modern world, and slammed both UKIP and the SNP for their ideological nationalism which, he said, was always “inherently reactionary”. He added: “Nationalism is the oldest ideology in the world. It’s the politics of the first caveman council.”

Asked about the deputy leadership race, and in particular Tom Watson, Blair suggested that it “could be important that the deputy is a woman” and said Labour needed someone who would move away from “machine politics”.

You can read the full text of the speech here.

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