Tony Blair: only a complete renewal of Labour will do | Politics

Tony Blair says “nothing less than born again head-to-toe renewal will do” for Labour, as members decide who will be the next leader of the party.

The former prime minister – who led Labour from 1994 to 2007 – warned the party needed to have the “mentality of government” and “redefine what radical means” in a speech to mark the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Labour party.

Members are set to vote on who will shape the future of the party with Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy battling to take over from Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. The result of the contest will be announced on 4 April.

Blair said Labour had always won when it had broadened British politics, secured the centre ground and looked to the future, adding “and yet despite this obviously being true, we have exhibited an extraordinary attachment to retreating into a narrow part of the left which has always ended in defeat”.

He said: “[W]hat Labour has stood for in terms of values has been magnificent; its achievements in government huge, but as a political competitor, it has too often been a failure.”

The speech was delivered on the same day that Nandy skipped over Blair’s name when asked to list who the best past leaders were on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Nandy said the New Labour years were “game-changing” but Blair did get “things wrong” during his decade in Downing Street.

Pushed on why she did not choose Blair, Nandy said: “I’d like to see us be more radical. So I think the assessment of Tony Blair’s time in office is that it was game-changing, it was important, but to earn the right for a hearing with the public about the things we got right, we’ve also got to be honest about the things we got wrong.”

Other leadership contenders have been asked about Blair. Earlier this month Rebecca Long-Bailey said she admired Blair’s focus on education, adding that his government had left a legacy of “aspiration and achievement”, while Starmer said he would not “trash” the Labour governments of Blair or Gordon Brown.

The first stage of the contest was for potential contenders to get the backing of 22 fellow MPs by 13 January. Five MPs passed this threshold: Keir Starmer (88 nominations),  Rebecca Long-Bailey (33), Lisa Nandy (31), Jess Phillips (23) and Emily Thornberry (23).

The second stage requires each contender to win the support either of 33 constituency Labour parties (CLPs); or of three affiliates, two of which must be unions, and which between them account for at least 5% of the affiliated membership. This must be achieved before 14 February. Jess Phillips withdrew from the contest on 21 January.

The ballot of members and registered supporters opens a week later on 21 February, and closes at noon on 2 April. To be eligible to vote you must have been a Labour member on 20 January, or have applied to have become a £25 registered supporter by 16 January.

Corbyn’s successor will be announced at a special conference in London on 4 April.

In his speech in central London, Blair argued that Labour must engage with the technology revolution of the 21st century which would “change everything and therefore everything should change, including radical reorientation of government”. He also called for “a new progressive coalition, to put Labour values into practice”.

In an arch opening to his speech, Blair reflected on the fact that his advice was not “particularly welcome” to today’s Labour party. He added: “But then it occurred to me that there are only two people born in the last 120 years who have actually won an election for Labour. And alas Harold Wilson is long gone.

“[Labour] has only once been elected for two successive full terms; only once for three, and both as New Labour, a period much of today’s party wants to disown.”

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