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20 February 2020

Former PM Tony Blair calls for party's 'renewal' during King's visit

The Labour Party needs a ‘head-to-toe renewal’ if it wants to get back into government at the next election, according to former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair sits in a chair with a purple tie, as Rachel Sylvester in a red dress asks him a question.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair with Rachel Sylvester, political columnist for The Times at King's College London.

Speaking at King’s College London today (20 February), Mr Blair said Labour was facing a huge challenge to convince voters to buy into its message, and called for politicians of the left to look to the future rather than to the past for solutions.

Mr Blair was speaking at an event hosted by King’s Centre for British Politics and Government, marking 120 years since the creation of the Labour Party, with support from the Department of Political Economy.

He said: 'Our mission is to take causes and make them practical, to say "yes" to ambition, and "no" to over-ambition or the wrong ways of realising it, to go to where the people are and show them – together – we can do better, to root our reactions in their reality, and to align their values with ours.

'That is the scale of the remaking – it’s what is going to make the next 120 years different from the first - and that is the big challenge. It is a mountain bigger, frankly, than who’s the next leader of the Labour Party.'

Mr Blair said he had 'taken stock' after Labour’s defeat at the December general election and insisted that the party should not be returning to its past, instead looking to the technological revolution of the coming years.

He said: 'It is always about the future, but it’s precisely because of that, because whilst pointing forwards for too long we have been travelling backwards, nothing less than a born-again, head-to-toe renewal will do for Labour and for progressive politics.'

After addressing the audience in King’s Great Hall, Mr Blair sat down for questions with Rachel Sylvester, a journalist from The Times, before questions were put by guests.

Asked about the future of the Labour Party, Mr Blair called for a focus on what he called the next revolution, that of technology.

He said: 'I think [technology] is the biggest thing. It’s the biggest opportunity, it’s the biggest challenge, it’s the best route to creating a different type of society and a better one, and it’s the biggest obstacle if it is not handled correctly.

'Where progressive politics revives itself is positioning itself absolutely in the future, building a broad alliance of people, who understand that you need a competitive private enterprise and you need mechanisms of social justice, but all of that is being enveloped by this huge change that is happening.'

Tony Blair with Rachel Sylvester at King's College London.
Tony Blair with Rachel Sylvester at King's College London.

The Centre for British Politics and Government is a vehicle for the work of the Department of Political Economy at King’s. It promotes a distinctive perspective on British politics and government, engaging with academia within the UK and internationally, the policy environment, and the wider world.

Dr Andrew Blick, director of the Centre for British Politics and Government, said: “We are grateful to Mr Blair for sharing his insights in what was an engaging and thought-provoking event, examining both the challenges of the Labour Party’s past and its future.”

The event was hosted at King’s as part of the university’s commitment to providing a learning environment that stimulates curiosity and supports intellectual endeavour – one of the key commitments in the King’s Strategic Vision 2029.

You can re-watch the event on King’s YouTube channel here.
Find out more about the Centre for British Politics and Government here.