Tony Blair calls for ‘radical’ overhaul of Labour on its 120th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 08:22 20 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:19 20 February 2020

Former prime minister Tony Blair. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

Former prime minister Tony Blair. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Tony Blair is calling for a ‘radical’ overhaul of the Labour Party on its 120th anniversary to avoid it being out of power for three-quarters of its existence.

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Blair, due to give a speech on Thursday, will push for the left-wing outfit to find a new mandate if it is to win power again within the next decade.

And the former prime minister will urge the three Labour leadership candidates to listen to his warnings rather than writing off the achievements of his government.

The ex-Downing Street incumbent won three elections for the party between 1997 and 2005, but his New Labour legacy has been brought into question by some members and even candidates seeking to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy accused the last Labour government of sticking with the "consensus" of right-wing economics introduced by Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and Sir Keir Starmer wants a Prevention of Military Intervention Act to avoid another Iraq war.

"I thought hard about taking stock on the Labour Party's 120th anniversary - it's not as if my advice is particularly welcome to today's party," he is set to say.

"But then it occurred to me that there are only two people born in the last 120 years who have actually won an election for Labour. And alas Harold Wilson is long gone.

"Out of 120 years, Labour has been in power for just over 30 of them. That is a stark statistic.

"We now have another Tory Government for five years, and possibly for 10.

"Were that to happen, Labour would have been in office less than a quarter of its existence."

Blair warned the next leader that Labour needed to discover a "radical" form of politics for the 21st century, rather than adopt a left-wing approach propagated in the last.

"The problem is that we have defined radical politics by a policy agenda which is hopelessly out of date, with 'moderate' politics being just a milder version of it," he continues.

"We must redefine what radical means. We're living through a technology revolution which is the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century Industrial Revolution.

"It will change everything and therefore everything should change including radical reorientation of Government.

"This is the context in which we tackle inequality, promote social justice and redistribute power."

The 66-year-old is set to argue that the overhaul goes beyond just the remit of the next leader.

"What is going to make the next 120 years different from the first? That is the big challenge - a mountain bigger than who's the next leader," said Blair, who spent a decade in Number 10.

"2020 isn't 1997, or even 2007. And 2030 will be a revolution different from 2020. It's always about the future.

"Precisely because of that, because whilst pointing forwards we have been travelling backwards, nothing less than 'born again' head to toe renewal will do."

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