Tony Blair savages Corbyn’s Labour Party accusing him of ‘comic indecision’

18 December 2019, 05:48 | Updated: 18 December 2019, 10:43

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Tony Blair has said while Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson had a strategy to win the election Labour "had one for defeat.”

The ex-leader of the party, in a speech in central London, said: "The result has brought shame on us. We let our country down."

He said the performance by Labour at such a crucial time in British politics was "unforgivable".

Mr Blair said Labour's challenge was to become a "modern progressive coalition" with the ability to win and hold power or admit it had "exhausted its original mission".

Former prime minister Tony Blair gives a speech on the future of the Labour Party and progressive politics at the Hallam Conference Centre in central London.
Former prime minister Tony Blair gives a speech on the future of the Labour Party and progressive politics at the Hallam Conference Centre in central London. Picture: PA

Mr Blair hit our at the party's leadership, suggesting with a different figurehead the recent election result would have been different.

“I believe with different leadership we would have kept the majority of our support in traditional labour areas, instead we pursued a path of almost comic indecision," he said.

"The absence of leadership then reinforced all the other doubts about Jeremy Corbyn.”

The former prime minister has warned Labour faces an existential crisis if the party does not revitalise itself as a "serious, progressive" alternative to the Tories.

Mr Blair, who was in power from 1997 until 2007, said: "The result has brought shame on us. We let our country down."

He said the performance by Labour at such a crucial time in British politics was "unforgivable".

The warning was made at a speech in central London. Later Mr Blair is due to publish a damning report on the party's failure in the election.

Jeremy Corbyn confronted by former MP and called 'preening narcissist'

The Labour party is in the throes of a battle to replace Mr Corbyn and diagnose the causes of the disaster at the election.

My Blair was the PM between 1997 and 2007
My Blair was the PM between 1997 and 2007. Picture: PA

The report based on polling and focus group research identifies five pillars of "northern discomfort" including Brexit that Labour suffered in the election, which saw dozens of seats in its heartlands, including Mr Blair's former Sedgefield seat, snatched by the Tories.

It concedes that Mr Corbyn did not "cause Labour's crisis" which has "been brewing for some years" but criticises his neutral Brexit stance, perceived associations with extremism and allegations of a lack of patriotism for creating a "lethal mix".

The report on the party's election performance says in order to kick Boris Johnson out of Downing Street, Mr Corbyn was tasked with reversing Labour's decline in the Midlands and the north of England.

"Instead, his leadership and his political strategy achieved precisely the opposite. They drove even more traditional Labour supporters away from the party," the report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change states.

"Our research shows that the breach need not be permanent, but simply changing the leader will not be enough.

"The problems go far deeper; and so must the solutions. Labour needs not just a different driver, but a different bus.

"The first task is to discard the sectarian ultra-left politics that has taken the party over and condemned it to the wilderness of opposition. Only then can Labour begin the journey back to government."

Mr Corbyn blamed Brexit and the media for his loss
Mr Corbyn blamed Brexit and the media for his loss. Picture: PA

Mr Corbyn has sought to defend his manifesto, which included the renationalisation of key utilities as being "extremely popular", and blame Brexit for having dominated the debate.

But the report for Mr Blair's organisation says the EU was not the "main explanation" and instead criticises the current leader "and the politics he represents".

Only 24% of voters polled in the report believed Mr Corbyn is patriotic, with focus group participants criticising his perceived associations with the IRA and terror groups.

The fatal London Bridge terror attack during the campaign had "real cut-through", the report says, with perceptions being that Mr Corbyn's stance was weak.

His policies were individually popular, polling suggested, but voters felt they lacked credibility when taken together, with 22% thinking the ideas were both good in principle and that Labour could be trusted to spend the money wisely.

A Labour source defended Mr Corbyn and blamed Mr Blair for having overseen the start of Labour's decline.

"In 2017 we saw the biggest swing to Labour since 1945 and more people voted for Labour under Jeremy, both in this election and in 2017, than Ed Miliband in 2015, Gordon Brown in 2010 or Tony Blair in 2005," the source said.

"As with Scotland, the decline in Labour support in the North discussed in this report started under Tony Blair. While the party undergoes a period of reflection, perhaps Tony Blair should reflect on his own role."

But Labour MP Neil Coye, who was reelected in Bermondsey & Old Southwark defended Mr Blair and placed the blame on Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Mr Coyle tweeted: "In 2005 Tony Blair won a third consecutive general election for Labour with a majority of 67.

"Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell called for him to resign. In 2019 they helped hand Boris Johnson a majority of 80 & still have not had the decency to go. A shameless insult to voters."

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