Tony Blair and Labour grandees back Ian Murray in bid to become deputy leader
Tony Blair has joined a host of Labour grandees in backing Ian Murray as the party’s next deputy leader.
In a video message, the former Prime Minister said Scotland’s sole remaining MP “gets it” and could “take forward our party and our country”.
Mr Blair has previously praised the deputy leadership hopeful for making a “strong argument” about the party’s future direction, but a new video released by Mr Murray’s campaign marks his first explicit endorsement of the candidate.
Mr Murray, who saw off an SNP challenge to his Edinburgh South seat at the general election, has also scooped up the support of former prime minister Gordon Brown as well as party grandees Alistair Darling, Roy Hattersley and Baroness Smith, wife of the late Labour leader John Smith.
In the video message, Mr Blair said: “These Labour Party elections are important, but not just for the Labour Party – for the country.
“All of the candidates in this leadership election are wrestling with the inescapable fact that Labour’s lost four times in a row and that it has to be able to win power in order to put its principles into practice, and to bring about real change in the country.
“And that’s a huge challenge for the Labour Party.”
And he added: “Ian Murray understands that if Labour is to have any hope, it’s got to be able to win in every part and every corner of the United Kingdom.
“It’s got to have a bold vision and programme, but it’s got to be a programme realistic enough to win power.
“Only in that way can we bring about real change. Only in that way can we bring about a government for the future, and not return to being a protest movement of the past.
“Ian Murray gets it, and that’s why it’s important to support him.”
Mr Murray won the backing of 60 local Labour parties and a string of affiliates in the most recent stage of the Labour deputy race, placing him ahead of rival Dr Rosena Allin-Khan but behind Angela Rayner, Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon.
The contest - as well as that to find Labour’s next leader - has now been thrown open to the wider membership under a one-member, one-vote system, with the winner declared on 4 April.
Welcoming the backing from senior Labour figures, Mr Murray said: “I’m proud to have the endorsement of both of Labour’s living Prime Ministers – Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – and the wife of Labour’s greatest Prime Minister that never was. Without winning back Scotland, they could be the last Labour Prime Ministers.”
He added: “Unlike some of my colleagues in this race, I have no problem being backed by any of them.
“They did the hard work to make Labour electable again and because of them we rescued our NHS, established a minimum wage, delivered greater equality for millions, wiped out developing world debt and lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
“The Labour Party of the future shouldn’t be an imitation of the party in 1997 - times have changed. But what hasn’t changed is the need to win if we’re going to change people’s lives.”
Mr Hattersley, a vocal critic of Jeremy Corbyn who served as Labour deputy from 1983 to 1992, said the Edinburgh South MP was “practical, down to earth” and “straight-forward”.
He added: “Ian is in the great tradition of my old friends John Smith and Donald Dewar. There could be no better recommendation.”