Tony Blair backs Ian Murray as deputy leader to ‘win in every corner’ of UK

PUBLISHED: 14:15 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:19 25 February 2020

(left to right) Labour deputy leadership candidates Ian Murray, Angela Rayner, Richard Burton, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler during the Labour leadership hustings at the SEC centre, Glasgow. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA.

(left to right) Labour deputy leadership candidates Ian Murray, Angela Rayner, Richard Burton, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler during the Labour leadership hustings at the SEC centre, Glasgow. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Labour’s only Scottish MP has received the backing of Tony Blair in the party’s deputy leadership race.

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The three-time election winner said Ian Murray "gets it" and is urging Labour members to give the Edinburgh South MP their vote in the five-candidate contest.

In Labour's landslide victory in 1997 that swept Blair into Downing Street, the party took 56 of the 72 seats available in Scotland.

But the party was almost entirely wiped out at the 2015 poll, winning just one of the 59 constituencies on offer - a result repeated at last year's election.

Blair, in a video played at Murray's campaign press conference, said he understood the need to reverse Labour's losses north of the border and reconnect to voters who have deserted the party.

"All of the candidates in this leadership election are wrestling with the inescapable fact that Labour's lost four times in a row and that it has to be able to win power in order to put its principles into practice, and to bring about real change in the country," said the former party leader.

"Ian Murray understands that if Labour is to have any hope, it's got to be able to win in every part and every corner of the United Kingdom.

"Ian Murray gets it, and that's why it's important to support him."

A host of figures from the last Labour government have united in backing Murray for deputy, with ex-PM Gordon Brown and former chancellor Alistair Darling voicing their support, along with Baroness Smith, the widow of former party leader John Smith.

At a speech last week, Blair refused to declare support for any of the three remaining leadership candidates vying to replace current leader Jeremy Corbyn, citing a fear of damaging his favoured contender.

Murray told reporters in Westminster that if Labour elected a Corbyn "continuity" candidate for leader or deputy then the party could find its taking of 203 seats at the last general election proved a "high-water mark" in the modern age.

"If we don't listen to the public and reflect on what they told us in December, we are not going to be able to recover. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented.

"The message is, these people (his Labour backers) did it before. And we have to do it again.

"If we don't do it again, then the future of the party might be that 203 seats is the high water mark, not the low water mark."

Voting in the contest opened yesterday, with Murray fighting against fellow MPs Angela Rayner, Rosena Allin-Khan, Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler in the race for the number two spot.

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