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Former shadow chancellor says Labour shouldn’t be a ‘Blairite tribute band’

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour should become more radical following setbacks in recent elections - Credit: PA

Sir Keir Starmer should avoid turning Labour into a “Blairite tribute band”, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell has warned.

He told BBC Two’s Newsnight the party should become more radical following setbacks in recent elections.

McDonnell, who stood down from the shadow cabinet in 2019, claimed there was “disillusionment” with Labour, “particularly among younger people”.

A Labour party spokesperson said that the party under Sir Keir was looking to the future, “not rerunning old arguments”.

The critique comes after Labour suffered a string of losses in the May 6 local election in England, including losing heavily in the Hartlepool by-election and the Tees Valley mayoral contest.

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott described the results as “ruinous” and warned last week that if Labour lost the forthcoming Batley and Spen by-election, it “must surely be curtains” for Sir Keir.

In his interview, McDonnell also criticised former prime minister Tony Blair for responding to recent election losses by calling for a “total deconstruction and reconstruction” of Labour.

“Some of the vitriol from Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair – it was almost like stepping back in time,” he said. “Keir cannot look like a Blairite tribute band and he knows that as well.”

McDonnell said Labour could accommodate a range of views as long members agreed on a core set of values.

“There is room for everybody in this party as long as they believe in democratic socialism,” he said. “And that is what we do.”

“So what Keir has got to do now is make sure that he recognises that the paradigm has changed. There is now a need for a much more radical approach because the issues that we face are so serious.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is a modern, outward-looking party, relentlessly focused on the challenges and opportunities for our country post-Covid.

“The pandemic has exposed a weakened economy, structural injustices, and public services starved of investment. It is Keir that has the ideas, purpose and drive to move our country forward.

“Under his leadership, the Labour Party is answering the questions of the 2020s and 2030s, not rerunning old arguments.”