REVEALED: How Momentum-backed Labour by-election hopeful praised 'great man' Tony Blair

Posted On: 
17th March 2017

When Labour party members in Manchester Gorton meet next Wednesday night to choose their candidate for the upcoming by-election, there will be no doubt who represents the hard-left option.

Tony Blair delivers his keynote speech at the 2006 Labour conference.
PA Images

Backed by both Momentum and Unite, Sam Wheeler's socialist credentials have never been in doubt.

It has been reported that the campaign to have him chosen as Gerald Kaufmann's would-be successor swung into action within hours of the Labour grandee's death last month.

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Wheeler is seen as a "rising star" by Jeremy Corbyn's allies, and delivered a rousing speech at the launch of the Salford leg of his leadership re-election tour last year.

In it, Wheeler said: "If you still believe that we can change this country, if you still believe that things can get better, if you still believe that the British Labour movement, united in a common endeavour, can bring freedom and justice for our people, then stand with the man who stands with us - stand with Jeremy Corbyn."

So it may come as a surprise that barely 10 years ago, he heaped praise on none other than Tony Blair - the universally-reviled hate figure of the Corbynite wing - and even suggested that he did not want him to stand down as Labour leader.

Reviewing Blair's final conference speech as leader for the BBC website in 2006, Wheeler paid tribute to the New Labour architect's "10 spectacular years" in power.

He also praised the "power and intensity" of the speech, which he said proved that then-Tory leader David Cameron "will never be anything but a pale imitation".

A clearly-impressed Wheeler went on: "Parts of the speech were harder. Here was Tony Blair warning the Labour party of the danger it would face if it turned its back on the lessons of New Labour.

"As I watched the speech I thought of not what had been, but of what might have been. 

"The protesters outside were not coming forward with a myriad of social, political and economic indictments like those that chased Margaret Thatcher from power, but with just one shout. Iraq. That's the one event will forever be a cloud over 10 spectacular years."

Summing up his thoughts, Wheeler said: "So, as the great man bids farewell with an intensity and a passion that any director in Hollywood would die for, one more of those Take That songs starts playing in my head. Tony, won't you stay another day?" [Ed: obviously that song by East 17]

Dot somehow thinks that Wheeler's hero Jeremy Corbyn may have had a somewhat different reaction.