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10 March 2022

Exclusive: Tony Blair wants to advise the next Labour government

The former prime minister hopes to return to British politics to “help on the policy side”.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Tony Blair wishes to advise the next Labour government on policy matters, he revealed in an interview with the actor Michael Sheen for a special issue of the New Statesman out on 25 March.

“What I would like to do is help on the policy side with the next Labour government,” he disclosed in a conversation over Zoom. “It’s got to be a platform that makes people think the world’s going to change, it’s just got to be the sort of change they’re not frightened of.”

In a wide-ranging interview, discussing British identity, the UK’s changing role in the world and Sheen’s three onscreen depictions of Blair, the former New Labour leader was asked whether he would serve a fourth term as prime minister. “No, I think the next Labour prime minister will be someone else, hopefully Keir,” he responded.

When pushed on whether he would return to British politics, he replied: “Let’s say I don’t think that route would be open to me, even if I wanted it. So it’s not something I think about at all.”

He then added, however, that he would like to help with policy. (See transcript below.)

The full interview with Tony Blair, which I moderated, will appear in the special issue of the New Statesman, guest edited by Sheen, on the theme of class, culture and national identity in Britain today. The magazine will feature contributions from, among others, Armando Iannucci, Gary Younge, Bernardine Evaristo, Andrew Marr and Ali Smith, as well as writers from A Writing Chance, a scheme to showcase new and aspiring storytellers from under-represented backgrounds.

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Transcript:

Michael Sheen: Gladstone was a few years older than you when he formed his second government — second of four, as you know…

Tony Blair: (Laughs) Yeah, well, good for Gladstone! But no, I think the next Labour Prime Minister will be someone else, hopefully Keir.

MS: But then he did do four, so he was 82 by the time he did his fourth.

TB: Yeah, I know. Gladstone was an amazing man and how he came back, but I think politics was a little different then! (Laughs)

MS: Genuinely, you wouldn’t want to get back into that arena again in the same way as you were before? Because I know you are still in the arena, but is there any circumstances in which you could be drawn back in order to provide the kind of vision that you think needs to be there?

TB: Let’s say I don’t think that route would be open to me, even if I wanted it. So it’s not something I think about at all. But, you know, I’m very happy doing the work that I’m doing at the moment, and I find that very fulfilling. It’s taken us a long time to build this organisation that we have now, the Institute, and I think we can build it even bigger and that’s really my focus, to be honest.

What I would like to do is help on the policy side with the next Labour government, because I do think you do put your finger on a very important point: it’s got to be a platform that makes people think the world’s going to change, it’s just got to be the sort of change they’re not frightened of.

MS: I’ll keep my costume in the wardrobe.

TB: Just in case!

For press enquiries regarding the interview or the special issue, contact ellys.woodhouse@newstatesman.co.uk

[See also: David Miliband: “Only brilliant people win from the centre left”]

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