Millions of British voters will be left “politically homeless” if they only face a choice between a “hard Brexit Tory party and a hard-left Labour Party”, Tony Blair said today.
The former prime minister ruled out any involvement in a new political party but said the 16 million people who voted to Remain needed a strong Opposition to hold the Tories to account.
He also issued a thinly-veiled warning to Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May over policies which would provide “competing visions of the 1960s”.
Blair, who also suggested Britain keep its “options open” until the full detail of the Brexit deal is known, told the BBC that Labour must remain in the centre ground.
“My view very simply is this: if you end up in the situation where there the political choice is between a hard Brexit Tory party and a hard-left Labour Party there will be millions of people who feel politically homeless.
“I am not suggesting new political parties. I am Labour I’ll stay Labour… What I am suggesting, however, is that we need to be mindful of the fact, yes, it’s true the Leave side won but there are 16 million people who voted Remain. They feel also very passionately about their position. I think they require and need an opposition that is going genuinely to hold the Government to account.
“Personally I think it would be a tragedy if we ended up as a country with two competing visions of the 1960s. The truth is the 21st century for Britain is going to be how we create a dynamic outward-looking country and economy. If we end up with a Hard Brexit I fear the pain of that economic and social restructuring will be severe. If the Labour Party can get back to a more centrist position then I think we are in a more position to win an election.”
Corbyn and Blair have issued a series of criticisms of one another over the last year although each has tried to avoid personal attacks. The current Labour leader said Blair had a “problem” because of the invasion of Iraq and subsequently apologised for Britain’s involvement in the war in the aftermath of the Chilcot inquiry.
Blair said – in an interview on the Today programme – described the vote for Brexit as a “catastrophe” and said he would not rule out a parliamentary vote or a general election on the deal.
He also said that the number of voters who felt “a sense of disenfranchisement” was greater than at almost any point since he entered politics and issued a warning about the “real-life implications” of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
“The bizarre thing about this referendum is that we took a decision where we wanted to leave the European Union but we don’t yet know the precise terms of our new relationship with Europe.”
He said he accepted the result of the referendum but added: “If it becomes clear that this is either a deal that doesn’t make it worth our while leaving, or alternatively a deal that’s going to be so serious in its implications people may decide they don’t want to go, there’s got to be some way, either through Parliament, or an election, or possibly through another referendum, in which people express their view.”