Starmer praises Corbyn’s ‘radicalism’ as Blair blusters from the sidelines

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Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has warned Labour must not “oversteer” away from the left wing politics of Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the party’s crushing general election defeat.

Starmer, who confirmed he was “seriously considering” a run for the leadership, said Corbyn had been right to make Labour an “anti-austerity” party.

In a clear attempt to distance himself from the legacy of Tony Blair, he said the party could not afford to go back to “some bygone age”.

His intervention came as the former prime minister delivered a crushing verdict on Labour’s election performance, saying the party had gone into the contest with a “strategy for defeat”.

Tony Blair, delivering a speech in London, has blamed Jeremy Corbyn for Labour’s election defeat (Yui Mok/PA)

In a speech in London, Blair laid the blame firmly at the door of Corbyn, saying he had pursued a policy of “almost comic indecision” on Brexit which managed to alienate both sides of the debate.

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“I believe with different leadership we would have kept much of our vote in traditional Labour areas,” he said.

“He (Corbyn) personified politically a brand of quasi-revolutionary socialism, mixing far left economic policy with deep hostility to Western foreign policy which never has appealed to traditional Labour voters and never will appeal to them, and represented for them a combination of misguided ideology and terminal ineptitude that they found insulting,” Blair said.

Corbyn came under fierce attack when he addressed a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Tuesday, with a number of MPs angrily blaming him for their worst election performance since 1935.

However, Starmer, who is seen as coming from a more centrist tradition than the Labour leader, said it would be a mistake to simply abandon his radicalism.

“What Jeremy Corbyn brought to the Labour Party in 2015 was a change in emphasis that was really important – a radicalism that matters,” told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“We need to build on that rather than simply say ‘Let’s now oversteer and go back to some bygone age’. We need to build on that radicalism.

“What we mustn’t do is say now, because we have lost in 2019, that move to an anti-austerity party has got to be rejected and we go back to some other political place that we were in in the past.”

Starmer’s comments will be seen as a pitch to win support from left-wing grassroots members who propelled Corbyn to the leadership in 2015 and who remain a significant force within the party.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Starmer is pitching to the left but is there honesty behind what he says? Probably given his willingness to serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and take on a difficult brief. All the same, the media will flay him for having supported a second referendum, having been in favour of remain and having been the man who led on the policy. Long-Bailey, less closely associated with the EU issue will be less vulnerable on that score. She will get skinned for having been close to Corbyn and McDonnell, and thus being too left; but the advantage is that the core of Labour’s manifesto was popular. The key policies attract majority support. Thus, when Johnson’s star falls from the sky and crashes into the desert, she will pick up relatively easily the votes of the lenders.
      As for Blair: “quasi-revolutionary”? What does go on in the man’s soggy brain. When did Corbyn ever suggest anything remotely like uprising? On the contrary, his programme was designed to make uprising redundant. He was saying: “You can change society by putting a cross on a ballot paper”. Just like 1945. Using votes to bring about radical change is how democracy works. Isn’t it what Blair did? Winning elections to push the Labour Party radically to the Right? As for “hostility to Western foreign policy” being a “misguided ideology”. What could have been more misguided than the Iraq war? Western foreign policy includes support for the apartheid regime in Israel and not long ago it supported the same in South Africa and was in favour of Mandela being in prison. Noam Chomsky has stripped Western foreign policy bare for the last fifty years. What his work shows is that if its right to dominate is challenged, the USA will resort to extreme violence without concern for democracy. What does Blair think of Vietnam as an example of Western foreign policy.? It was disgusting to see him in power, posing as a friend of the many while cultivating the rich and lining his own trousers. Watching him now, looking like an old man with only memories of his fantasised greatness to comfort him, is a sad spectacle. Once he felt the hand of destiny on his shoulder, now the hand of posterity is there and its judgements will be harsh. He had a chance to do good and he sided with wealth and power. No one will ever be able to accuse Corbyn of being responsible for anyone’s death, but Blair’s hands are bloodier than MacBeth’s. “Out, out damned spot…” Too late, Tony. You missed your opportunity.

      1. With you on every word. Just wish Blair would shut up and go away. He is an embarrassment to us all on the Ul and across the world. He is like the dragon Smaug sitting on his piles of millions while people starve in this country. He is not our friend

      2. No one will ever be able to say Corbyn was responsible for anyone’s death because he never had and never will have any power unlike Blair, However Corbyn did invite the IRA to parliament who killed British citizens both here and in Northern Ireland. He supports countries like Iran who are committed to the destruction of Israel and calls both Hamas and Hezbelloh his friends.
        He didn’t accept Russian involvement in the Salisbury incident despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary so it’s very fortunate that he will never have his hand on the foreign policy tiller because in essence he is a fucking idiot.

        1. “He supports countries like Iran who are committed to the destruction of Israel”
          A big lie! But if was true, so what? Israel is the only country in middle East with nuclear weapons!!!
          I would say Israel is committed to the destruction of Iran, and they have the means to do it!
          In any case, we are not Americans, we don’t have to suck up to Israel.. our politicians aren’t expected to be subservient to a foreign nation like Israel.

    2. Starmer seems a good man. If only Blair spent half as much time attacking Johnson as he does Corbyn, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation. Where were people like Blair and Brown when the right-wing media was accusing the Labour leadership of being anti-semitic? Same with those Labour MPs slating Corbyn in the Commons – did a majority of them even want a Labour government? I do wonder.

      1. Starmer is no good man at all..I blame him for the election loss.
        He changed the manifesto to include rerun of the referendum and look at the outcome!
        Only difference between 2017 & 2019 is pledge for second referendum.
        I have a feeling the blairite right wingers like starmer himself would rather have a Tory government than a Corbyn in no_10 … Because they are all power hungry careerist with no principles.

    3. There is little doubt that Labour lost the election because it reneged on its previous clear decision to respect the referendum result and had no focussed policy for the revival and regeneration of the Leave voting areas. Unfortunately the Labour leaders must have known this for some time yet failed to address it openly. This made the election campaign more of a suicide mission than a project hope. However, the right wing attacks on Corbyn and the manifesto are ridiculous self serving nonsense. Detaled analysis and comparison of the 2017 and 2019 results shows both that a radical left wing agenda under Corbyn was popular and remarkably successful and at the same time that the great promise of 2017 was squandered by accommodating to the Remain position. There was always a strong left wing case for leaving the EU (see Tony Benn and Corbyn himself) while being passionately pro-European and it was that case that needed to be made, not the Remainer one. At the same time, Labour needed to be offering immediate economic measures for the ‘left behind ‘ areas in the shape of government funded job creation schemes on environmental and infrastructure projects. Labour is finished if it doesn’t now embrace a left Brexit- a Labour Brexit – for an independent, Europe facing, socialist Britain, but it will need to drastically change its approach in the regions. We need firebrand Labour Brexit advocates who will shred the Tories and expose the corruption, neoliberalist de-industrialisation, economic austerity and anti-democratic structures and practices of the EU.

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