Tony Blair warns Jeremy Corbyn not to hand the SNP a second independence vote 'as bargaining chip'

Posted On: 
9th October 2019

Tony Blair has urged Jeremy Corbyn not to use the promise of a second independence referendum as a "bargaining chip" in order to win the backing of the SNP.

Tony Blair with Jeremy Corbyn at the Cenotaph.
Credit: 
PA

The former Prime Minister said it would be a "big mistake" for the Labour leader to hand a re-run of the 2014 vote to the Scottish Nationalists in exchange for them supporting him as Prime Minister.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell triggered an angry backlash in August when he said Labour "would not block" a second independence referendum and "would let the Scottish people decide".

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Mr Corbyn meanwhile said it was "not up to Parliament to block" a further Scottish poll.

The comments put the pair at odds with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who has vowed to block any request by the SNP to hold a fresh vote. 

Joining that criticism as he spoke to reporters in Edinburgh, Mr Blair said Labour should not get into "horse-trading" over a referendum.

“I would be surprised if [Corbyn] enters into horse-trading about the Union," he said. "It would be a big mistake."

He added: "I’m not privy to his innermost thoughts – I think he’d rather talk to the allotment than talk to me – but I doubt very much, I don’t think he would do that trade, at least I hope he wouldn’t."

Warning that such a move would be a "a major category error, both in principle and politically", he added: "I don’t think that Labour should give any indication at all that it’s prepared to put the Union on the table as some form of bargaining chip."

And he said: "The question of whether there is another independence referendum has to be decided completely separately from questions of who forms the government of the UK.”

The SNP's Ian Blackford this weekend made clear that his party would demand the power to hold another independence referendum - known as a Section 30 order - in return for supporting a minority Labour government.

Mr Blackford told the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland that Mr Corbyn had to "respect democracy".

And he added: "It is absolutely the case that everything that was seen going on at Westminster demonstrates that the people of Scotland have got to have the right to determine their own future - that means that we have to have that Section 30 sitting in the hands of the Scottish parliament."

BLAIR: VOTING LABOUR A 'STRUGGLE'

Elsewhere in his interview with Scottish journalists, Mr Blair - a longstanding critic of Mr Corbyn's leadership of Labour - admitted it would be a "struggle" to vote for the party at the next election.

He said: "I’m not intending to vote for anyone else. It’s a struggle, I worry a lot about the direction of the Labour Party. I found the debate and controversy over anti-semitism distressing, extremely distressing.

"I think there is a sectarianism that has been brought into the Labour Party that is damaging."