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By Tobias Ellwood
By Ben Guerin
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Tony Blair savages Jeremy Corbyn for turning Labour into a 'glorified protest group with cult trimmings'

3 min read

Tony Blair has accused Jeremy Corbyn of turning Labour into a "glorified protest group with cult trimmings" as he laid the blame for the party's election defeat at the leader's door.

The former Prime Minister accused Mr Corbyn of "terminal ineptitude" as he urged the party to turn its back on far-left politics or face another 15 years of Conservative rule.

Mr Blair said the party must not forget the "lightning" moment when the exit poll dropped at 10pm last Thursday revealing the true scale of Labour's humiliation.

"This is not about Jeremy Corbyn as a person," he said. "I have no doubt he is someone of deeply held and sincere beliefs, who stayed true to them under harsh attack.

"But politically, people saw him as fundamentally opposing what Britain and Western societies stand for. 

"He personified an idea, a brand of quasi-revolutionary socialism, mixing far left economic policy with deep hostility to Western foreign policy, which has never appealed to traditional Labour voters, never will appeal and represented for them a combination of misguided ideology and terminal ineptitude that they found insulting."

He added: "The takeover of the Labour Party by the far left turned it into a glorified protest movement with cult trimmings, utterly incapable of being a credible government."

Meanwhile, Mr Blair said the party pursued a path of "comic indecision" on Brexit by promising a second referendum in which Mr Corbyn would remain neutral.

"What we should have done, following June 2016, is accepted the result, said it was for the Government to negotiate an agreement but reserved our right to critique that agreement and should it fail to be a good deal for the country, advocate the final decision should rest with the people," he said.

And he said under different leadership the party would have kept their traditional voters while also securing the votes of Remainers across the country.

"Instead we pursued a path of almost comic indecision, alienated both sides of the debate, leaving our voters without guidance or leadership," he added.

"The absence of leadership on what was obviously the biggest question facing the country, then reinforced all the other doubts about Jeremy Corbyn."

'Fantasy island'

His intervention comes as several Labour figures, including shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer indicated they were considering running to replace Mr Corbyn next year.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Starmer said the party should be a "broad church" which had room for supporter of Mr Corbyn and "people who might self-identify as Blairites", but urged the party not to "oversteer" to the right after the crushing election loss.

But Mr Blair, who led the party to three election victories, warned prospective future leaders they should not become "marooned on fantasy island" by failing to understand the cause of Labour's election defeat.

It comes as a new report from the Tony Blair Institute found that Mr Corbyn's leadership, not Brexit, was the main reasons for voters in Labour's former Northern heartlands to turn away from the party at the election.

The study found Mr Corbyn's stance on Brexit as well his record on defence issues, and failure to tackle anti-semitism had created a "lethal mix" for voters.

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