Blair: Either a Corbyn or Johnson majority would pose 'risk' to UK

25 November 2019, 14:57

Tony Blair made the remarks at a speech today
Tony Blair made the remarks at a speech today. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Tony Blair has said either a Labour or Conservative majority government would "pose a risk" to the UK.

Delivering a speech on Brexit and the General Election in London, Mr Blair said that both the Conservatives' pledge to end the UK's transition period after Brexit at the end of 2020 with or without a deal and Labour's spending plans posed a "risk".

Mr Blair told the Reuters Newsmakers event: "Both as majority governments pose a risk. It's just that the chances I think of Labour doing that are - if the polls are right - negligible."

He continued: "I don't think a majority government of either side is a good thing," adding: "This is why I'm saying you have to unpick the knot and what people are thinking at the moment is if you pull the string hard enough you'll untie the knot, but you won't.

"We have got to decide Brexit on its merits and then you've got to decide who runs the country on its merits."

On Labour's manifesto, Mr Blair said while its aims were good, it would be "difficult" to achieve.

He added: "Some of the things that underline the policy commitments, to tackle poverty, to tackle inequality, I mean this should definitely be the agenda of any modern government.

"The problem is if you try unreconstructed, and at one time, to do all of those things listed in the manifesto it would be difficult."

Mr Blair said he would still vote Labour but could understand why people might vote for Liberal Democrat candidates.

He said: "I've said why I've got to vote Labour because for one thing, by the way, there will be an enormous debate coming, I feel, in the Labour Party at a certain point," adding: "I'm in a particular position, there's one of me. But I can understand why the people I know in the same constituency as me who will be voting for Chuka Umunna."

He continued: "There will be constituencies in which the Labour Party has no chance of winning and in those constituencies - if I wasn't me as it were and I was just an ordinary or a floating voter - in those constituencies yeah I'd want to."

He also branded the Tories' plan to deliver Brexit a "fantasy" and said he would not trust Boris Johnson with a blank cheque and said the state of British politics is "utterly dysfunctional".

He added: "The Conservative Party say vote Tory and Brexit will be done, it will be over.

"They even add - do it and we can get back to dealing with the important issues.

"The cheek is quite breath-taking. So, having visited this debacle upon us, which has distracted us from those big issues for over three years, they now use the distraction as a reason for doing Brexit, not abandoning it.

"But it appeals. It is, however, a fantasy. Brexit isn't over on 12 December, nor even on 31 January next year. We immediately begin the new phase of Brexit negotiation."

He added: "The Conservatives calculate that they can force people to elect them, despite worry over Brexit, because Jeremy Corbyn is the alternative.

"The Labour Party leadership calculate they can combine traditional Labour support around issues like the NHS, with Remain voters who hate Brexit, despite fear about the Labour leader.

"In other words, both parties want to win on the basis that whatever your dislike of what they're offering, the alternative is worse."

Mr Blair said: "Yet though Brexit is a distraction, it is also the vital determinant of the nation's future.

"It remains the single most important decision since 1945. Because of its effect on the economy, it impacts every one of the non-Brexit promises the parties are making.

"Doing it matters. How it is done matters. And exhaustion is not the frame of mind in which to do it.

"No-deal Brexit is not off the table. It is slap bang in the middle of it.

"When people hear the phrase no deal, they often think we just mean failure to agree, which in Brexiteer language means we haven't surrendered.

"What it really means is throwing our economy off a cliff and hoping it finds a parachute on the way down.

"It is a risk no responsible leader would take. Yet we may be about to empower a leader - Boris Johnson - to take such a risk."

On Labour, he said: "The Labour Party manifesto is heralded by its leadership as the most radical ever.

"This is true. It promises a revolution and if implemented it would indeed amount to one...The problem with revolutions is never how they begin but how they end."

He added: "The polls predict a Conservative victory and put the chances of an outright Labour victory as negligible. But I wouldn't trust Boris Johnson with a blank cheque."

Responding to the speech, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I simply invite all those who are looking at it to recognise what we have put forward is a sensible costed plan of how we can improve public services and life opportunities in this country, and develop an economy for the future at the same time as meeting our net-zero requirements for environmental sustainability."

Referring to Mr Blair's statement that he would vote Labour, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Mr Umunna told the PA news agency: "What he did say is that as he understands it most people are voting for me in the constituency where he lives, particularly Remain voters."