Blair on the cuts: Labour has to be ‘credible’

by Peter Wozniak

Tony Blair has warned Labour to alter its strategy on the economy if it is to have any hope of winning the next election.

The former prime minister argued: “If Labour simply defaults to a ‘Tory cutters, Lib Dem collaborators’ mantra, it may well benefit in the short term; however, it will lose any possibility of being an alternative government.”

Labour’s attacks on the government’s aggressive deficit reduction policies have so far focused primarily on the Lib Dems, casting them as cover for an ideologically driven Conservative reduction of the state.

Mr Blair’s views stop short of endorsing the coalition’s approach, but warn Labour against ignoring the hole in the public finances for temporary political gain.

“We should also accept that from 2005 onwards Labour was insufficiently vigorous in limiting or eliminating the potential structural deficit … Labour has no option but to be credible in its own right. That means, as I say, having a coherent position on the deficit”, he said.

Mr Blair suggested that the focus of Labour’s strategy ought to have been on Alistair Darling’s plan to halve the structural deficit in four years rather than on attacking the Tories.

As the primary exponent of New Labour’s ‘third way’ on economic policy, it is hardly surprising that Mr Blair should be critical of an overtly left-of-centre stance, and ties in with his suggestion that Labour lost the election because it abandoned this position.

Mr Blair’s memoir, A Journey, was released today. A one hour TV interview – the first since Mr Blair left office – will be shown at 19:00 BST tonight on BBC 2.