Tony Blair Calls For Tactical Voting To Deny Corbyn And Johnson A Commons Majority

Former Labour leader suggests government of national unity could run UK - without Corbyn as PM.

Tony Blair has backed tactical voting to deny both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson an outright majority in the election.

In his biggest intervention in the 2019 election campaign, the former prime minister refused to say that Corbyn was a fit and proper person to become PM, and signalled that a more “suitable candidate” could be found to lead a minority administration.

Blair even suggested that Labour MPs could bypass their leader to work with Lib Dems and others to create a government of national unity in a hung parliament.

Speaking at a Reuters event in London, he warned that both a Corbyn-led government and a Boris Johnson majority would pose an “unwise” “risk for the country” and backed for the first time the idea of tactical voting on a case-by-case basis.

“The truth is: the public aren’t convinced either main Party deserve to win this Election outright. They’re peddling two sets of fantasies. And both, as majority Governments, pose a risk it would be unwise for the country to take,” he said.

Choosing his words carefully to avoid getting expelled from Labour, Blair said he would personally vote for his party but said he could “understand” why people in his own local constituency in central London would back Liberal Democrat Chuka Umunna.

“I can understand why people I know in the same constituency as me will be voting for Chuka….The Liberal Democrats can’t form a government, but they can play an important role in who does govern,” he said.

In a nod to support for former Tory independent MPs like David Gauke and Dominic Grieve, as well as other Conservatives, Blair also said that “there are good, solid mainstream, independent minded MPs and candidates in both parties”.

He said the public should recognised which MPs were best placed to get a hung parliament and “vote accordingly”.

Chuka Umunna, who defected from Labour and is now a Liberal Democrat
Chuka Umunna, who defected from Labour and is now a Liberal Democrat
PA Wire/PA Images

But perhaps his most controversial words came as he was asked about who could lead a government of national unity - most likely made up of Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and moderate Tories but without Jeremy Corbyn at the helm - if there was a hung parliament.

“Yeah, it’s possible. It’s possible because then people realise they got no alternative but to do that but it just depends what the configuration is.

“Then by the way you will get the thing [Brexit] resolved in a proper way because I think there will be an enormous desire then, to make sure that you find a suitable candidate and get the thing done.”

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson sparked a backlash in recent months when she suggested her party would demand Labour changed leader before supporting a minority government.

Asked if Jeremy Corbyn was a fit and proper person at become PM, Blair replied: “I’m choosing my words carefully because we’re in the middle of an election campaign.

“And my differences with Jeremy Corbyn are pretty well documented and my views haven’t changed, put it like that. But I think if the polls are right, there is a negligible chance of a Labour majority.”

The three-times Labour PM warned that Corbyn’s own competence and credibility, plus a desire to leave the EU, were pushing traditional northern Labour voters towards the Tories.

“The vulnerability that I think is most acute is in traditional Labour what you would in the old days have called more working class seats in the north, particularly, where a lot of people would never ever ever have thought of voting conservative.

“But a combination of anxiety over the Labour leadership and Brexit is tipping them towards that. So that’s probably the point of biggest vulnerability.”

He added: “We should look at this election seat by seat. There is one general election but 650 mini-elections and each one matters.... I don’t think a majority government of either side is is a good thing.

“I have been campaigning for the great Labour candidates because I know parliament will be poorer without them. I am sure the same is true of the Conservative Party and there are those who were expelled for their moderation also standing.”

The ‘Independent Group for Change’ splintered quickly earlier this year and when asked if people should still be talking about the formation of a new centre party, Blair sidestepped the question.

But he added: “What we should definitely still talk about... is how you reconstruct the sensible mainstream of British politics.”

Conservative party Chairman James Cleverly hit back: “Tony Blair’s comments make clear that a vote for anyone other than the Conservatives is a vote for another deadlocked Parliament and more dither, division and delay, meaning we can’t move on and focus on people’s priorities.”


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