Tony Blair has urged Labour to “emphatically reject” so-called wokeism and push its far-left factions “to the margins” if it is to win power again.
The former prime minister’s call comes in a foreword to a report suggesting Labour will need a larger voter swing to win the next election than was seen during Mr Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.
The party’s former leader said that a “lurch to the far left…will never be electorally successful” following the party’s drubbings at the 1983 and 2019 elections, and urged Sir Keir Starmer to continue to bring the party back to the middle ground.
Mr Blair said the electoral picture for Labour had been made worse in the decades leading up to the general election loss in 2019 under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – Labour’s worst performance since 1935 – by the fact that working class loyalty to the party had ebbed away.
Polling from Deltapoll – which questioned more than 2,500 former Labour voters and more than 3,000 individuals who remained loyal to Labour – discovered that more than 11 million ex-Labour voters failed to vote for the party in 2019, with 5.5 million turning to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
Mr Blair argued the party has a “culture problem with many working class voters” as well as a “credibility problem” with those in the centre of the political spectrum.
Setting out a four-point plan for how Labour can return to government, Mr Blair – who was in Downing Street for a decade – said leader Sir Keir should “continue to push the far left back to the margins” of the party.
He also argued that so-called “woke” views – defined by the Oxford English Dictionary website as being “alert to injustice in society, especially racism” – should be rejected.
“We should openly embrace liberal, tolerant but common sensical positions on the ‘culture’ issues, and emphatically reject the ‘wokeism’ of a small, though vocal, minority,” said Mr Blair.
The 68-year-old said any future policy agenda should be orientated around “an understanding of how the world is changing”, suggesting that the “technology revolution should be at the heart of it”.
He also pressed for the “best and brightest from the younger generation” to be encouraged to stand as Labour candidates.
“The corner is turned”
In what will likely be read as a vote of confidence in the current leadership, Mr Blair predicted that Labour “could do it again” and return to power for the first time since 2010.
“Its leadership today is capable of governing and confidence is returning. The corner is turned,” he added.
The comments are part of a foreword to a report, commissioned by the Tony Blair Institute, setting out the findings of Deltapoll’s research into why Labour voters have been abandoning the party.
Peter Kellner, in the executive summary of the From Red Walls to Red Bridges: Rebuilding Labour’s Voter Coalition report, said the “size and urgency of the task” in front of Labour “are hard to overstate”.
The former YouGov president said: “To secure a majority at the next general election, Labour needs to gain more than 120 seats.
“This will require a 12 per cent lead in the popular vote – and a swing to Labour greater than in 1997.
“The party has barely started to climb the mountain it must conquer.”
While recent polls have shown the Conservative lead over Labour narrowing or having been overturned – Savanta ComRes polling published on Wednesday put Labour two points ahead – Mr Kellner suggests they are not yet in a strong enough position to overcome Mr Johnson’s working majority of around 80.
“No successful opposition has been anything like as far from the winning post in the mid-term period as the Labour Party is today,” said Mr Kellner.
The research, published on Friday, found that Labour had failed to adapt to the loss of its historic, core voter base – manual workers in heavy industry, belonging to a trade union and living in council homes.
Education has become a dividing line in terms of support for the party, with Labour doing best among students and graduates aged under 30, and worst among non-graduates aged over 50, the report said.
Mr Kellner said the findings suggested Labour needed a two-part strategy both to win back the so-called “red wall” seats in the North of England, Midlands and North Wales – the traditional Labour heartlands which fell to the Tories two years ago – and to retain them.
“The first is a national drive to regain the support of older voters without university degrees,” said the former journalist.
“This would yield the greatest dividends in places with the highest concentration of such voters – such as red-wall towns.
“Second, a future Labour government needs to ensure these same towns attract the graduates and young families that have increasingly congregated in metropolitan cities.”
Related: Patel ‘no longer invited’ to migrant talks following PM’s letter – France interior minister