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Labour Party needs ‘total deconstruction and reconstruction’ to revive, Tony Blair says

·3-min read
Tony Blair, the former prime minister, on the ‘science’ of governing (PA)
Tony Blair, the former prime minister, on the ‘science’ of governing (PA)

Labour needs “total deconstruction and reconstruction” in order to revive as a party amid the “major setback” of last week’s poor electoral performance, former leader Tony Blair has warned.

In a frank assessment of the party’s new leadership, Mr Blair also said that Sir Keir Starmer lacked a compelling economic message, was “struggling to break through with the public”, and was being backed into “electorally off-putting positions”.

The former prime minister’s intervention comes after Angela Rayner, the deputy leader who was involved in stand-off with Sir Keir over the weekend after she was removed as party chair, said voters did not know what the Labour leader stood for at the recent election.

As some on the left of the party raised questions over Sir Keir’s stewardship of the party after the loss of the Hartlepool by-election and 327 councillors at the local elections, Mr Blair, however, insisted in an article for the New Statesman: “The Labour Party won’t revive simply by a change of leader.

“It needs total deconstruction and reconstruction,” he wrote. “Nothing less will do”.

He added: “At present, Labour expresses perfectly the progressive dilemma. Corbyn was radical but not sensible. Keir seems sensible but not radical. He lacks a compelling economic message.

“And the cultural message, because he is not clarifying it, is being defined by the ‘woke left’, whose every statement gets cut-through courtesy of the right.”

In a separate interview on Wednesday, Mr Blair also told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the success of the government’s vaccination roll-out, with over 35 million people having received a first dose, “gave a boost to the government” at the recent elections.

Asked whether it was possible he would be the last Labour politician to be elected as prime minister, he replied: “Well, it’s a huge problem for Labour because we did something the Labour has never done in its history before.

“If you go back 120 years of Labour’s history, there are three occasions in which the far left have got near to the leadership of the Labour Party: 1935, 1983, and 2019. All of them have been the worst defeats we’ve ever had.

“But only in the last defeat – 2019 – did the far left actually capture the leadership of the party itself. You can agree with Jeremy Corbyn, don’t agree with him, but it was a dramatic change in the type of Labour Party that had been put forward.”

He added: “It’s a challenge to be fair to him [Sir Keir], which is much more difficult that I had. I came to the leadership of the Labour Party after Neil Kinnock had made huge reforms. Then I was able to take it all further.

“Keir has literally taken the Labour Party over at probably the hardest part of its entire political history – I’m deeply sympathetic to him.”

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ed Miliband, another former leader of the party, said Labour had a “mountain to climb” and insisted Sir Keir had managed to put the “Remain-Leave argument behind us”.

“But we all have a collective responsibility to show exactly what we stand for going forward – absolutely we do,” he said. “We should be bolder, of course we should bolder.”

He added that Sir Keir believes the country needs a “big economic change” to make it less “unfair, unequal and unproductive”, stressing now was not the time to “blow the final whistle” on his leadership.

“What I’m interested in is what we do now. You don’t blow the final whistle on the match a third of the way through the match, which is where we are probably in this parliament; we go out and we fight for what we believe in.

“That’s what we’ve got to do as a party – look to the country, as Angie Rayner is saying.”

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