Labour is “marooned on Fantasy Island”, argues Tony Blair

Sienna Rodgers

Labour is currently “marooned on Fantasy Island”, Tony Blair has argued in a fresh intervention today, amid potential leadership candidates such as Sir Keir Starmer setting out their own views on the future of the party.

The former Prime Minister argued that Jeremy Corbyn’s party lost the general election because it “pursued a path of almost comic indecision, alienated both sides of the debate, leaving our voters without guidance or leadership” over Brexit.

In a speech this morning, Blair said: “The absence of leadership on what was obviously the biggest question facing the country then reinforced all the other doubts about Jeremy Corbyn.”

He asserted that the incumbent Labour leader was seen by the British public as “fundamentally opposing what Britain and Western societies stand for”, which would never have appealed to “traditional Labour voters”.

Turning to criticise the current membership, Blair claimed that the “far left” took over the Labour Party and “turned it into a glorified protest movement, with cult trimmings, utterly incapable of being a credible government”.

He added: “Let us demolish this delusion that ‘the manifesto was popular’. The sentiment behind some of the policy reflected public anxieties, but in combination, it was one hundred pages of ‘wish list’. Any fool can promise everything for free. But the people weren’t fooled.”

Blair predicted that Boris Johnson would “adopt centre ground rhetoric on everything other than Brexit and possibly even on that”, and that Labour should “make radical changes” to itself in order to win before 2029.

He also launched a defence of New Labour, stating that under his leadership it “did not ‘neglect’ those traditional Labour heartlands in some appeasement of the middle class” and pointing out that his majority in Sedgefield was large.

Blair set out the following plan for the future:

  • “First, there should be a parallel debate in and out of the Labour Party about the future of progressive politics, how it is reconstructed and reshaped into a winning coalition. This should include Labour, traditional left and right, the Lib Dems, those disenchanted with both main Parties and those not at present engaged in any Party. It must be a Big Tent debate, open and frank.”
  • “Second, we need urgently a new policy agenda for progressive politics. At the heart of it will be understanding and mobilising the technological revolution, the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century industrial revolution.”

He concluded: “We don’t have the luxury of the slow march back. We can correct our historical and contemporary weaknesses; or be consumed by them. But that choice is unmerciful. And before us now.”

Blair declined to endorse any of the runners and riders in the Labour leadership contest, which has unofficially started due to a number of MPs having already declared an interest in joining the race.

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