Tony Blair says Labour is now facing an 'existential crisis'

PUBLISHED: 08:18 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:18 18 December 2019

Former prime minister Tony Blair gives a speech at the Institute for Government. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

Former prime minister Tony Blair gives a speech at the Institute for Government. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Tony Blair has warned that Labour faces an existential crisis after the general election result.

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Tony Blair, who is the only Labour leader to have won a general election in the last 45 years, is to use a speech on Wednesday to urge against a "whitewash" of the party's worst general election result since 1935.

And he will tell an audience in central London that Labour faces being "replaced" if the party does not revitalise itself as a "serious, progressive" alternative to the Tories.

Corbyn told a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party in the Commons on Tuesday evening that he is "very sorry for the result, for which I take responsibility".

He maintained his defence that Brexit was a major reason voters lost their trust in Labour, and repeated his criticism of the media.

Corbyn also told his MPs to vote against Boris Johnson's Brexit deal because it imposes an "impossible timetable" to get a "good" trade deal with the EU by the end of the transition period.

But the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to implement Brexit is almost certain to pass now the prime minister has an 80-strong majority, due to the Tories' emphatic victory.

A series of MPs criticised Corbyn during the meeting, of which veteran critic Dame Margaret Hodge said "on the whole it was fury, despair, miserable".

Former shadow work and pensions shadow Rachel Reeves said she told the meeting Labour needs "radical change" and to get a leader "that actually wants to win".

Labour's Lord Falconer, a former justice secretary, told BBC's Newsnight: "The feeling is like a volcano of molten anger that is absolutely pouring out. It's been there in the building the whole day."

Numerous Labour MPs said, however, that Corbyn was not told to go immediately, with them apparently supporting his plan to depart after overseeing a "process of reflection".

The new leader is expected to be in place by the end of March.

Blair, whose former Sedgefield constituency fell to the Tories in Thursday's election, is to warn that "any attempt to whitewash this defeat, pretend it is something other than it is, or the consequence of something other than the obvious, will cause irreparable damage to our relationship with the electorate".

The former PM's warning comes as his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change publishes a report blaming the defeat on factors including Corbyn's neutral Brexit stance, perceived associations with extremism and allegations of a lack of patriotism.

A Labour source defended Corbyn and blamed Blair for having overseen the start of the party's decline.

"It is a devastating result, but it's important not to oversteer. The case for a bold and radical Labour government is as strong now as it was last Thursday," said one.

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