ANY of the three Labour leadership hopefuls would be a ‘significant improvement’ on Jeremy Corbyn, former prime minister Tony Blair has said.
Mr Blair (pictured), who won three elections as Labour leader, said the party would need a ‘head-to-toe renewal’ to win power after four defeats but declined to name his preferred candidate out of Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Sir Keir Starmer for fear of damaging them.
‘We can be clear and radical and still in the centre,’ he argued at an event at King’s College London, watched by his wife Cherie and youngest son Leo, 19, to mark Labour’s 120th anniversary.
But Mr Blair, 66, predicted Boris Johnson was facing ‘very tough’ trade talks with Brussels and said Labour’s next leader should not campaign to rejoin the EU.
‘In the long term, who knows? The Tories will own Brexit whatever happens and I think you’ve got to give it a chance to be done,’ he said.
Mr Blair, responsible for sending British troops into Iraq in 2003, declined to comment on Sir Keir’s plans to introduce a law to make military intervention more difficult.
He also called on Labour to avoid getting into what he dubbed a ‘culture war’ over trans rights.
During his 14-minute speech, Mr Blair called Labour’s 2019 manifesto ‘wrong’ for ‘promising the earth’.
He said, with technological developments happening at pace, ‘everything must change’ for Labour if it was to convince voters it could be trusted to wield power. ‘Labour’s aim is not to trend on Twitter or to have celebrities — temporarily, by the way — fawn over it,’ he said.
‘Our task is to win power. To get our hands stuck into the muddy wrangle of governing, where out of it can be pulled the prize of progress.’
He argued that holding on to left-wing principles without power rendered them ‘pretty meaningless’.