UK Politics

Tony Blair says Labour's position is a 'tragedy'

Tony Blair Image copyright Reuters

The current state of the Labour Party is a "tragedy", former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Mr Blair said the party he used to lead should aspire to govern, rather than be a "fringe protest movement".

He has been a vocal critic of leader Jeremy Corbyn, warning before his leadership election victory that the party risked "annihilation" if he won.

Mr Corbyn's office declined to respond to Mr Blair's comments, made in a Spectator article.

"All wings of the Labour Party which support the notion of the Labour Party as a Party aspiring to govern, rather than as a fringe protest movement agree on the tragedy of the Labour Party's current position," he said in the article, which does not mention Mr Corbyn by name.

His comments come amid divisions within the party over its future direction. Most Labour MPs did not back Mr Corbyn for leader, but he overwhelmingly won the contest with over half of the membership's vote.

Image caption Jeremy Corbyn won an overwhelming victory in Labour's leadership contest

Tensions have surfaced since the Commons voted on air strikes in Syria. Some MPs have complained they were abused online after backing military intervention, and Mr Corbyn has warned members "abuse and intimidation" will not be tolerated.

There have also been claims so-called moderate Labour MPs could be unseated by pressure from the grass-roots Momentum group, formed from Mr Corbyn's leadership campaign, which the group denies.

In his article, Mr Blair also defended his party's record under his leadership, during which he said it had "effectively discarded" its ideological commitment to socialism.

Labour "fell short" in areas when hard choices had to be made, he said, with "significant elements" of the party unhappy with the "compromise" and "pragmatism" required for government, seeing it as a betrayal of Labour's principles.

Looking forward, Mr Blair said "more modernising and less ideological thinking" was needed to cope with challenges such as the housing shortage and social exclusion.

"Right now we're in danger of not asking the right questions, never mind failing to get the right answers," he said.

Many current Labour members feel the party "lost its way" in government, Mr Blair concluded.

"I feel we found it," he said.

"But I accept in the process we failed to convince enough people that the true progressives are always the modernisers, not because they discard principle but because they have the courage to adhere to it when confronted with reality."

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