Tony Blair warns Labour against "a traditional leftist platform"

Labour's only living election winner has cautioned the party against a lurch to the left.

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Tony Blair has warned Labour against standing on a "traditional leftist platform", as polls showed Jeremy Corbyn, the veteran leftwinger, surging to first place in the Labour leadership race.

In remarks made to the Blairite think-tank Progress, Blair rejected what he dubbed "the single most dehabilitating feature" of the Labour leadership race: the belief "that this is a choice not only between government and opposition, but between heart and head, between the pursuit of power and the purity of principle".

But Blair, the only Labour politician to win a general election since 1974, described the argument as  "precisely about principle", about what leftwing values mean "in the modern world". 

Urging party members to "move on, but not move back" from his three election victories in 1997, 2001, and 2005, he argued that reforms that cut waiting lists in the NHS "or transformed much of London's schooling or cut crime" not as "a betrayal of principles, but [the] implementation of them". 

He counselled against trying to "out-Ukip Ukip" or attempting to "be more Scottish" in order to beat the SNP, urging Labour to take them on head-first.

Blair passed up the opportunity to criticise Ed Miliband's leadership, saying the "important thing is where we go next". He refrained from nominating a candidate as if it "might not work". He ruled out leaving should Corbyn triumph, saying "I'm Labour through and through. Anyone who fought the 1983 election is Labour through and through."

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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