Blair continues to voice his concerns about Ed Miliband's leadership
By Matthew Barrett
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He was asked about Labour leader Ed Miliband, and appeared uncomfortable answering the question, saying "Well, you know there’s only a certain amount you can say really without saying too much". When pressed about whether (Ed) Miliband is "a torch bearer for New Labour", Blair answered:
"...he’s going to decide, you know, how he defines himself and what his position is, you know I can say and I have said where I think Labour – that Labour would win as a modern progressive force fighting from the centre. But I hope and believe that that’s what he’ll do."
Blair emphasised the need for the Labour Party to modernise:
"I mean I’m just – I’m just sitting here saying from where I’m sitting looking at, you know, Labour Parties, progressive parties around the world, those that succeed do so by constantly modernising, those that don’t modernise usually get beaten."
Blair also took a shot at the unions, saying:
"But you’ve got to understand today how fast the world is changing. And what you’ve always got to be careful of – particularly with public sector unions, is you don’t become 'small c' conservatives. You know the world is – we’re going to resist the change, we’re going to keep the status quo. So the only question for countries like ours is, how fast can you engage with this process of change in the world?"
In a Sun interview last week, Blair not only gave Miliband some warning he must move to the centre...
"I am happy to give him my full support. I always will do for the leader of the Labour party, and I think he should be given a chance to set out his agenda. But in my view Labour will win if it fights from the centre."
...but he also praised David Cameron in generous terms:
"I have an innate respect and sense of solidarity for anyone who takes the job on. It is a huge responsibility and it is a responsibility that never leaves you for a single moment of any day or night."
Blair showed today that he is clearly still happy to cause mischief for his successor. This follows on from a series of Coalition-friendly, or anti-Miliband/Brown (whichever you choose to be his real motive...), comments. He has backed the Coalition's deficit plans, backed the health reforms, called the Coalition "centrist", advised it to learn from New Labour's mistakes, attacked deficit denialism, urged the Conservative part of the Coalition to over-ride the "Old Labour instincts of the Lib Dems", and said Gordon Brown lost because he strayed too far from New Labour (and given Ed Miliband wrote the 2010 manifesto, it's fair to say he is guilty of straying, too).
Despite Blair's warm words for Cameron and the Coalition, many Conservatives will wonder if we can take Blair seriously, given his seemingly permanent support for the Euro: