UK Politics

Tony Blair warns Miliband's Labour over move to left

Tony Blair
Image caption Tony Blair urges Labour to stay out of its "comfort zone"

Tony Blair has issued a warning to Ed Miliband about turning Labour back into a left-wing party of protest.

In an article for the New Statesman, he says Labour is "back as the party opposing 'Tory cuts'".

As a result it is in danger of becoming a "repository for people's anger" rather than a party with answers to the country's problems.

Ed Miliband said he took Mr Blair's comments seriously but said the party was "moving on and moving forward".

He said he was leading the party "in my own way", adding that it was important to assess where Labour had gone wrong in the past and "sketch out a different vision for the future".

The former prime minister has been increasing his profile in the UK in recent months.

He does not mention Mr Miliband by name in the article but is explicit in his criticism of the party's strategy under his leadership.

'Status quo'

Mr Blair warns against the return of the "familiar old left/right battles", of the kind that dominated British politics before he moved the Labour Party on to the centre ground.

"Suddenly, parts of the political landscape that had been cast in shadow for some years, at least under New Labour and the first years of coalition government, are illuminated in sharp relief," he writes.

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Media captionEd Miliband: "Labour under my leadership is moving on"

"The Conservative Party is back clothing itself in the mantle of fiscal responsibility, buttressed by moves against 'benefit scroungers', immigrants squeezing out British workers and - of course - Labour profligacy.

"The Labour Party is back as the party opposing 'Tory cuts', highlighting the cruel consequences of the Conservative policies on welfare and representing the disadvantaged and vulnerable (the Lib Dems are in a bit of a fix, frankly)."

Mr Blair warns Labour against settling back into its "old territory of defending the status quo" and allying itself "to the interests that will passionately and often justly oppose what the government is doing".

He insists Labour's "guiding principle" should be to seek answers, not become the "repository for people's anger".

"In these times, above all, people want leadership," he said.

'Vision of future'

In another apparent dig at Mr Miliband, Mr Blair said the public wanted to "know where we're coming from because that is a clue as to where we would go, if elected".

Producing a "vision of the future" is "of the absolute essence", Mr Blair adds.

In his most detailed intervention in UK politics since leaving Downing Street, Mr Blair sets out where he thinks Labour should be positioning itself ahead of the next general election.

"It means, for example, that we don't tack right on immigration and Europe, and tack left on tax and spending," he writes.

"It keeps us out of our comfort zone but on a centre ground that is ultimately both more satisfying and more productive for party and country."

He also urges the Labour leadership to ask itself questions such as: "What is driving the rise in housing benefit spending, and if it is the absence of housing, how do we build more?"

Cutting crime

And he calls for greater focus on increasing the skills of unemployed people, setting the right balance between universal and means-tested help for pensioners, and the use of DNA technology to cut crime.

Mr Miliband told the BBC: "I always take Tony Blair very, very seriously, but I think what the Labour Party is doing under my leadership is moving on and moving forward. I'm leading in my own way and I think that is what's most important.

"I'm proud of the last Labour government, but I think we got some things wrong. I think the most important thing a political party needs to do is assess where it got things wrong, listen to the electorate and sketch out a different vision for the future.

"That's what we're doing - tackling the issues that matter to people today, like the crisis in standards of living, how we get jobs and growth moving, something Tony Blair talks about today. Those are the priorities of the British people."

Mr Blair's article was seized on by the Conservative Party, with chairman Grant Shapps saying the former PM was right to warn that "Labour aren't a credible party of government under Ed Miliband".

"The only plan Labour have is more of what got us into this mess in the first place - more spending, more borrowing and more debt," he added.

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