Former labour leader Tony Blair warned Labour faces an existential crisis as Jeremy Corbyn is facing sharp criticism from his own MPs over the disastrous election defeat.
Blair, who is the only Labour leader to have won a general election in the last 45 years, used a speech on Wednesday to urge against a “whitewash” of the party’s worst election result since 1935.
He laid the blame firmly at the door of Mr Corbyn, saying he had pursued a policy of “almost comic indecision” on Brexit which managed to alienate both sides of the debate.
“I believe with different leadership we would have kept much of our vote in traditional Labour areas,” he said.
“He (Mr Corbyn) personified politically a brand of quasi-revolutionary socialism, mixing far left economic policy with deep hostility to Western foreign policy which never has appealed to traditional Labour voters and never will appeal to them, and represented for them a combination of misguided ideology and terminal ineptitude that they found insulting,” Mr Blair said.
Blair, whose former Sedgefield constituency fell to the Tories in Thursday’s election, warned that “any attempt to whitewash this defeat, pretend it is something other than it is, or the consequence of something other than the obvious, will cause irreparable damage to our relationship with the electorate”.
He was also a fierce critic of Corbyn’s inaction over the antisemitism row within the party, telling the Board of Deputies’ annual gala last month, that it was “not a few bad individuals. It’s not limited to Britain or the British Labour Party. There’s an entry point to antisemitism today on the left and it has to be combated .” He did however confirm he would vote Labour in spite of the row.
A Labour source defended Corbyn following the former PM’s criticism, and blamed Blair for having overseen the start of the party’s decline.
This comes after Corbyn told a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party in the Commons on Tuesday evening that he is “very sorry for the result, for which I take responsibility”.
He maintained his defence that Brexit was a major reason voters lost their trust in Labour, and repeated his criticism of the media.
A series of MPs criticised Corbyn during the meeting, of which veteran critic Dame Margaret Hodge said “on the whole it was fury, despair, miserable”.
She confronted Corbyn in July of this year, reportedly branding him a “f****** antisemite and a racist” in Parliament.
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The criticism came as potential leadership candidates sounded out their pitches, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer saying he “seriously considering” running, and making a plea for the party to return to being a “broad church”.
He added that Labour “didn’t deal with antisemitism and that became a question of values and a question of competence”, but insisted the party shouldn’t lurch to the right.
The Shadow Brexit secretary also warned Labour must not “oversteer” away from the left wing politics of Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the party’s crushing general election defeat.
“What Jeremy Corbyn brought to the Labour Party in 2015 was a change in emphasis that was really important – a radicalism that matters,” told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Yvette Cooper said she will decide over Christmas whether or not to run for leader, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s a lot of things to reflect on.”
The new leader is expected to be in place by the end of March.