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Tony Blair: Labour must work with Lib Dems to regain power

3 min read

Labour will have to "build a new progressive coalition" with the Lib Dems if it wants to regain power in the future, according to Tony Blair.

The former Prime Minister said the controversial move was "essential" in order to defeat the Conservatives.

In comments which will infuriate thousands of members of the party he used to lead, Mr Blair said it was a "birth defect" that the Labour and Liberal political traditions had become opponents rather than partners.

However, he stopped short of proposing a formal merger between the two parties, or the creation of an entirely new centrist political force.

And he took a swipe at the Lib Dems, who he accused of not being serious about wanting to govern the country.

He made the remarks in a speech marking the 120th anniversary of Labour's creation in which he also warned that the party must return to the political centre ground if it is to win the next election.

"First, we must build a new progressive coalition, to put Labour values into practice," he said.

"We must correct the defect from birth, which separated the Liberal reforming traditions of Lloyd George, Beveridge and Keynes from the Labour ones of Keir Hardie, Attlee, Bevin and Bevan. 

"These traditions became separated by ideas around class, industrial organisation, the role of the state and individual liberty, all of which are time bound.

"But they had in common social reform, advancement of opportunity and passionate commitment to fighting poverty and injustice all of which are timeless. 

"How this is done institutionally is for debate. But intellectually and philosophically this is essential. With one qualification. Those Liberal politicians aspired to govern. Today’s Lib Dems would have to show the same clarity of purpose."

Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron backed Mr Blair, tweeting: "He is right. We both need to show humility about our limitations along with seriousness about power. This doesn’t mean a pact or a formal alliance, but it does mean a shared understanding of a common purpose and a common opponent. Time to start winning."

In a question and answer session after his speech, Mr Blair refused to say who he was backing in the Labour leadership race, but said that "whatever happens is going to be a significant improvement" on Mr Corbyn's time in charge.

But he said the party must engage with technological change if it is to appeal to voters once again.

"If Labour becomes more moderate and less extreme, of course it will do better - but not much," he said.

"The problem is that we have defined radical politics by a policy agenda which is hopelessly out of date, with ‘moderate’ politics being just a milder version of it. 

"We must redefine what radical means. We're living through a technology revolution which is the 21st Century equivalent of the 19th Century Industrial Revolution. It will change everything and therefore everything should change including radical reorientation of Government.

"This is the context in which we tackle inequality, promote social justice and redistribute power."

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