Tony Blair cautions Labour party over Corbyn leadership

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Aug 31, 2015 00:34 IST
Labour Party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn speaks at an election campaigning event at Ealing in west London, Britain August 17, 2015. Britain's opposition Labour Party has begun voting for a new leader in a contest that polls indicate will be won by Corbyn, a veteran fan of Karl Marx who has upstaged rivals by promising a shift back to the party's socialist roots (REUTERS Photo)

Tony Blair, the most successful leader in Labour history who led the party to three consecutive wins starting from 1997, cautioned his party on Sunday against electing Jeremy Corbyn, the candidate tipped to win the leadership poll on September 12.

Blair, who previously criticised Corbyn and his growing band of supporters for their hard-left posture that, according to him, would make the party unelectable, wrote in The Observer that his politics were fantasy, just like ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Corbyn has attracted much criticism from past and current leading lights of the party, including Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock. Blair’s former aide, Alistair Campbell, voiced the apprehensions of many about Corbyn: “ABC: Anyone But Corbyn”.

However, the more trenchant the criticism, the more supporters Corbyn has won. The other three candidates – none of whom has so far stood out with their policies–are Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

Blair, who admitted that criticism led to more support for Corbyn, wrote: “Anyone listening? Nope. In fact, the opposite. It actually makes them more likely to support him….In the Alice in Wonderland world this parallel reality has created, it is we who are backward looking for pointing out that the Corbyn programme is exactly what we fought and lost on 30 years ago, not him for having it”.

According to Blair, Corbyn’s rise is similar to trends of ‘parallel reality’ in other countries, such as Donald Trump leading the field of Republican candidates in the US; Alexis Tsipras winning in Greece; or Marine Le Pen riding high in France.

“There is a politics of parallel reality going on, in which reason is an irritation, evidence a distraction, emotional impact is king and the only thing that counts is feeling good about it all. So when people like me come forward and say elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader and it will be an electoral disaster, his enthusiastic new supporters roll their eyes,” Blair wrote.

Blair’s intervention was promptly flayed by Corbyn supporters, like Tessa Jowell: “I don’t think there is any point in people who are no longer engaged in frontline politics giving their view from afar. I really don’t.”

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