UK would 'hit the canvas' under a Jeremy Corbyn government - Tony Blair
3 min read
Tony Blair has accused the Labour leadership of offering a “vision of the 1960s” – despite the party’s gains under Jeremy Corbyn at the recent general election.
The former prime minister said Mr Corbyn had secured a “remarkable result”, but warned Britain would “hit the canvas” if his left-wing agenda was implemented after the UK had left the single market.
In his first post-election intervention, Mr Blair renewed his criticism of the Labour leader, though he acknowledged the left had captured “something real and powerful” in the electorate.
Labour won 40% of the vote on 8 June – though still finished more than 50 parliamentary seats behind the Conservatives.
Mr Blair, who won three majorities when in charge of Labour, said the party was at risk of replicating the “hubris” which led Theresa May to call the snap general election in the first place.
“Our tragedy is we’ve two competing visions of the 1960s on offer to the country whereas we need a vision of the country that actually answers the call of the future,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
He also hit back at analyses of the election which concluded that a centrist offer would have been rejected by the British public.
“If you combine Brexit, leaving the single market, and you have got what is on any basis the largest spending programme any Labour party has ever proposed, and you bear in mind what the Office for Budget Responsibility was saying just a few days ago – you put all that stuff together, yes, I think we would be in a very serious situation [if Labour won].
“When people say my type of politics and centrist politics is dead, it wasn’t on offer. I do point out: no party won a majority at that election and I think part of the reason for that was… I don’t think either political party yet has a real and true majority of the country behind it.”
In an essay on the website of his own institute, Mr Blair added: “If a right wing populist punch in the form of Brexit was followed by a left wing populist punch in the form of unreconstructed hard left economics, Britain would hit the canvas, flat on our back and be out for a long count.”
And he also urged centrist Labour MPs not to give up trying to change the direction of the party, arguing that the election successes were in part down to voters not believing Mr Corbyn had a chance of becoming prime minister.
“The common refrain amongst some Labour MPs is the policies were popular and if we retain them and unite we will win next time,” he wrote.
“We should beware our own form of hubris. The Tories are not going to run another campaign like that one. Next time, Labour’s economic programme will come under vastly greater scrutiny. No one is going to believe that there is not a real possibility of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. The campaign mishaps which happened every time the spending figures were put under the spotlight won't pass so easily.
“Understandably, some Labour MPs who, only weeks ago, thought their best hope of salvation rested on disassociation from the Leader, now feel disoriented. But policies which were wrong in May didn't suddenly become right in June.”
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