Sir Tony Blair has suggested the Labour Party should listen to his advice on policy if it wants to “seal the deal” at the next general election.
The former Labour prime minister, who acknowledged that he was not currently popular amid all sections of the party, said he believed that Labour under Sir Keir Starmer could win the next election.
But, addressing a receptive crowd at the Future Of Britain conference in central London partly organised by his own institute, he also warned that success on polling day was not determined by arithmetic but a clear policy agenda.
In a wide-ranging discussion with former BBC journalist Jon Sopel, Sir Tony was also clear that his advice was not exclusively for Labour but instead for any progressive politician or party.
“I want to build a strong policy agenda and then it is there for reasonable people, whether they are Conservative Party, Labour Party, Lib Dems, whatever, to take it up and at least you get people debating how to change the country in a way that bears some resemblance to the reality of the challenge we face.”
“Sometimes politics isn’t about just going with the flow, it is about resisting it as well,” he told the conference.
He rejected the suggestion, in the face of the rise of the far-left and the far-right in France, that voters did not want so-called “centrist” politics anymore.
He admitted that while a lot of people might hate centrist politics, he said that there was no point in politics if you did not stand up for your beliefs.
“It is a fight. There is going to be a big struggle,” he admitted.
Referencing the victory of Joe Biden in the US in 2020, he said: “Does that mean the fight is over? No. But it means it is not a hopeless fight.”
A persistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn, he said that Sir Keir had done an “amazing” job to reform the party, quipping that he had only had to follow on from former leaders Neil Kinnock and John Smith.
“For Labour to win the next election, it has got to have a policy agenda, that is absolutely clear.”
Sir Tony also referenced the Liberal Democrat victory at the recent Tiverton and Honiton by-election, which saw the party defeat the Conservatives in a traditionally safe seat in the south of England.
“Those people have got to be comfortable with a Labour government,” he said.
For his own part, he said that his current project was not going to morph into a political party nor was he putting together a “manifesto”.
“You have got two main political parties. I don’t see that changing,” he said.
Sir Tony was not entirely critical of the Boris Johnson administration, pointing to the Government’s ambitious policies on climate change even as he criticised the lack of energy behind them.
“It is not that everything that the Government is doing is wrong, but it is not nearly enough to see us through,” he said.
But the former prime minister, an opponent of Brexit, did make clear his reservations about how the Government was implementing its policy vision.
“It is not going to be reversed any time soon, let’s say, any time in this generation,” he said of Brexit.
“But you still have got to fix the problems. This stuff in Northern Ireland is doing us damage. The fact you have got labour shortages is doing us damage. The fact that we have got exports down and the pound devalued and business investment down is doing us damage.”
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