EXCL Arch-Blairite ex-minister tells colleagues: ‘It's time to move on from New Labour’

Posted On: 
20th November 2017

A former minister who once described Tony Blair as "my political hero" has told his party that it is time to “move on" from New Labour.

Liam Byrne Liam Byrne with his 'political hero' after being elected in 2004.
PA Images

Liam Byrne said the last Labour government had failed to tackle inequality in the UK, and heaped praise on Jeremy Corbyn.

In an interview with The House magazine, the shadow digital minister also called for the neoliberal economic model embraced by New Labour to be ditched, saying: "The faster it’s buried the better."

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Mr Byrne's comments are significant because he has always been seen as one of the closest adherents to Mr Blair's political philosophy.

In an article just two years ago, the Birmingham Hodge Hill MP said: "If there’s one thing I learned from my political hero Tony Blair, it’s that when modernisers stop modernising we fail."

But the former Cabinet minister has now moved to distance himself from the former Prime Minister, and said he admired the way Mr Corbyn had "broken the mould" of British politics.

He said: "I am one of the few people who have been trying to move the Labour party on from what I call the three i’s of New Labour, which was Iraq, immigration and inequality.

“The challenge of political movements changes. New Labour’s reluctance to engage in the argument about inequality was for me the biggest reason for moving on from that phase of politics.”

Asked if he believes the economic model espoused by long-standing socialists Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell will deliver prosperity for Britain, he replied: “Yes, I think it will, actually.”

“What Jeremy has done has broken the mould," he added.

“I think you need a different political and economic model. The manifesto that we published (at the last election) was a really good summary of a lot of the changes that were needed, and his instruction to all of us now is figure out the detail and I’m lucky to be part of that project."

Mr Byrne was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Gordon Brown in 2009. 

He is probably best known for the note he left for his successor following the 2010 election in which he said: "I’m afraid there is no money."

The note was later revealed by David Laws, the Lib Dem who became Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the Coalition government.

Writing in The Guardian in 2016, Mr Byrne said "every day I have burnt with the shame” ovet the note, which "was not just stupid. It was offensive. That’s why it has made so many people so angry. And that is why it was so wrong to write".