Blair: I have sympathy for rebels but I’m staying in Labour
- Credit: BBC
Tony Blair has said he has 'sympathy' for the MPs who established the Independent Group but insisted he will stay in the Labour Party.
The former prime minister said he did not speak to the MPs about breaking away but told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: 'I'm in touch with them and I have spoken to some of them.
'I've got a great deal of sympathy with what they're doing and what they're saying.'
He added: 'I'm staying in the Labour Party. I've been in the Labour Party for over 40 years, I led it for 13 years, I was the longest-serving Labour prime minister, I'm deeply attached to the Labour Party.
'But do I sympathise with what they have done? Yes, I do. I think they're courageous in having done it.'
You may also want to watch:
He added: 'I think it's absolutely inevitable that if you put the choice before the country - hard Brexit Tory party, hard-left Labour Party - it doesn't matter what I say, what I want to happen, what anyone else says, you leave that amount of fertile territory open, someone is going to cultivate it.'
Blair said he was 'deeply concerned' about Labour's direction and policy, adding: 'If you want to get back to winning ways, this is not the position to be in.'
- 1 Leave EU website suspended after EU registry blocks move to Ireland
- 2 Comedian wins praise after shaming No 10 during Dancing on Ice appearance
- 3 Television drama to focus on Boris Johnson's first year in Downing Street
- 4 Boris Johnson blames seafood companies for post-Brexit sales slump
- 5 Boris Johnson claims Labour supporters using Universal Credit vote to incite hatred
- 6 Progressive alliance could see Labour win 351 seats at next election, new analysis reveals
- 7 The greatest failure of government in our lifetime
- 8 Michael Gove among 14 Tory MPs revealed to have joined banned Parler app
- 9 The polling that signals the plight of the Union
- 10 Dominic Raab 'not convinced' collapse of fishing businesses would be result of Brexit deal
He said he believed Labour deputy leader Tom Watson had 'shown really great leadership' in recent weeks when asked about the move to set up a social democratic group within the party.
He added: 'As a result of what he's doing, he's encouraging people who do share a perspective of the Labour Party as a governing, modern, progressive party, he's actually encouraging them in a sense to stay because he's providing a space within which people can debate and argue.'
In a message to Labour MPs on Brexit, he said: 'Vote against the deal, use an extension to come to a conclusion - hard versus soft or back to the people.
'I think you'll get to another referendum when people understand that a hard Brexit is going to be deeply economically painful for the country and a soft Brexit means we just become a rule-taker.
'It's in those circumstances that I think you mobilise a majority in Parliament to say the sensible thing in these circumstances is to put it back to the people, or pass her deal subject to a confirmatory referendum.'
Become a Supporter
The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.