Tony Blair is the most successful leader in Labour history – leading it to power in three successive elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005 – but after quitting politics and contrary to convention, he now says the question of his returning to active politics is open.
His remarks in an interview to Esquire magazine prompted a flurry of comments, recalling his legacy of taking Britain to war in Iraq, the strictures passed by the Chilcot Inquiry in July, and several alleged misdeeds during his prime ministership and after he left office in 2007.
The reason Blair gave for not ruling out his return is the current state of Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. According to Blair, Corbyn’s leadership and the change in the party under him had made Britain a one-party state, dominated by the Conservatives. Several Blairite MPs have rebelled against Corbyn in recent days.
After leaving office, Blair set up a successful company that operated in 20 countries and made news for earning him millions of pounds, including providing consultation to various international leaders and speaking engagements.
He told the magazine that he was still trying to find a political role which would help the party become electable: “I don’t know if there’s a role for me. There’s a limit to what I want to say about my own position at this moment. All I can say is that this is where politics is at. Do I feel strongly about it? Yes, I do. Am I very motivated by that? Yes. Where do I go from here? What exactly do I do? That’s an open question.”
“There’s been a huge reaction against the politics I represent. But I think it’s too soon to say the centre has been defeated. Ultimately I don’t think it will. I think it will succeed again. The centre ground is in retreat. This is our challenge. We’ve got to rise to that challenge.”
Corbyn had policies that would take Britain back to the 1960s, he said and added it was a tragedy for British politics if the choice before the country was a Conservative government going for a hard Brexit and an ultra-left Labour party that believed in a set of policies that took the country back to the 1960s.
“In the UK at the moment you’ve got a one-party state. When you put it all together (taking into account that the Conservative leader wasn’t elected), there’s something seriously wrong.”
Asked if Corbyn could ever be taken seriously as a leader, Blair provided an analysis about the current state of Labour: “This is not about Jeremy Corbyn. It’s about two different cultures in one organism. One culture is the culture of the Labour party as a party of government. And that, historically, is why Labour was formed: to win representation in parliament and ultimately to influence and to be the government of the country”.
“The other culture is the ultra-left, which believes that the action on the street is as important as the action in parliament,” he said. “That culture has now taken the leadership of the Labour party. It’s a huge problem because they live in a world that is very, very remote from the way that the broad mass of people really think”.
“The reason why the position of these guys is not one that will appeal to an electorate is not because they are too left, or because they are too principled. It’s because they are too wrong.
“The reason their policies shouldn’t be supported isn’t because they’re wildly radical, it’s because they are not. They don’t work. They are actually a form of conservatism. This is the point about them. What they are offering is a mixture of fantasy and error.”