Tony Blair: Labour should be much further ahead under Jeremy Corbyn

The ex-Labour prime minister said Mr Corbyn's party should be 15 to 20 points ahead in the polls

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Saturday 11 November 2017 11:27 GMT
Tony Blair: Labour should be "15 to 20 points" ahead in the polls

Tony Blair has paid tribute to Jeremy Corbyn for creating "enthusiasm" in politics but has said Labour should be much further ahead in the polls than it is under his leadership.

The ex-prime minister said that given the Conservative Government's multiple crises Mr Corbyn should be some 15 to 20 points ahead.

It comes after Gordon Brown praised Mr Corbyn earlier this week, hailing him as a "phenomenon" and saying he "speaks for many people".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Blair said: "I pay tribute to the campaign he ran, I think he showed a lot of character in the way he ran that campaign. He's generated a lot of enthusiasm. I buy all of that.

But the ex-leader, who won three elections, went on to say: "It's important and salutary for us to remember this Government is in a greater degree of mess than any government I can remember.

"Even in the 1990s the Tory government was a paragon of stability compared with this and yet we are a couple of points ahead and, I think I'm right that he's not yet ahead of her as prime minister. So, I pay tribute to all of that but I still say come on guys, we should be 15, 20 points ahead at this stage."

According to the most recent polling for The Independent by BMG Research, Labour was five points ahead of the Conservatives, going up to six points once 'don't knows' were redistributed.

Asked who people would prefer to see as next prime minister, 31 per cent said Mr Corbyn compared to 29 per cent for Ms May, and once 'don't knows' were redistributed, 34 per cent backed Mr Corbyn and 32 per cent chose Ms May.

Further polling will be conducted over the next week which will show whether the loss of two ministers from Ms May's cabinet, stalled Brexit talks and the sexual harassment scandal have had an impact on the figures.

Earlier this week Mr Brown argued that Mr Corbyn was successfully tapping into rising public anger over the unfair effects of globalisation, after other politicians appeared to show they had "no answers".

Mr Brown, who was Prime Minister for three years until the 2010 election, said: "People feel rightly or wrongly that the problems that they have – stagnant wages, inequality, polarisation between rich and poor, public service not being properly financed – they ascribe that to the failures of governments, centrist governments that have not been able to manage globalisation."

On Mr Corbyn’s shock rise, he added: "He has come through because he expresses people’s anger at what’s happened – the discontent.

"When he attacks universal credit, he is speaking for many people, when he says the health service is underfunded, he is speaking for many people."

Tony Blair: 'Consider voting Tory or Lib Dems over Brexit'

The Labour leader still had to show he had "a plan for the future that is credible and, therefore, a programme that is electable".

In his interview this morning, Mr Blair also refused to row back on previous criticism of his successor Gordon Brown. The increasingly sour relationship between the then prime minister and his chancellor dominated their time at the top.

In his memoirs, Mr Blair said Mr Brown had analytical intelligence but "zero" emotional intelligence. Mr Brown suggested earlier this week that the former premier "would regret saying that now".

But, asked if that was the case, Mr Blair told Today: "Look, I wrote what I wrote."

Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech at the annual CBI conference
Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech at the annual CBI conference (EPA)

He added: "What I really think is this, because it is particularity important for its impact on the Labour party today, what's important is that the two of us actually concentrate on the good things that happened through this time."

Mr Blair denied that he had agreed to step aside as prime minister if Mr Brown backed plans to allow Britain to join the euro, as claimed by the former chancellor.

"No, that would not be a sensible thing to have done at all," he said. "No I didn't (say it)."

Gordon Brown backs Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

Mr Blair instead pointed out that despite the differences between them, Labour had enjoyed its most electorally successful period.

"The two of us, for whatever problems arouse later, and there were real policy differences, as both of us have described, nonetheless the benefits of that partnership I think were able to be realised partly because we hadn't ended up with a huge scrap at the beginning," he said.

Mr Blair was speaking as he published a report on how to prepare Britain for a "revolution" in technology, warning that neither of the major parties has set out the plans needed.

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