Tony Blair Slams 'Reactionary' Labour Leadership Candidate Corbyn

Choosing Corbyn 'is like going back to Star Trek or something,' Blair says in speech; new poll put socialist MP known for anti-Israel stances far ahead of other candidates.

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Britain's former Prime Minister and former Labour Party leader, Tony Blair, at an event attended by Labour supporters in central London on July 22, 2015.
Britain's former Prime Minister and former Labour Party leader, Tony Blair, at an event attended by Labour supporters in central London on July 22, 2015.Credit: AFP
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Haaretz

Former British Prime Minister and Labour leader Tony Blair warned his party against electing socialist Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, after the pro-Palestinian MP emerged as the frontrunner in the leadership race in a new poll.

Addressing a Labour think tank on Wednesday, Blair termed Corbyn's "radical leftism" as reactionary. "It's like going back to Star Trek or something. Back to the old days," Blair said, the Express reported.

Corbyn, an MP from London's Islington North, was originally labeled a no-hoper and only barely gathered the minimum number of endorsements from fellow MPs to run for party leadership.

However, his leadership campaign seems to have attracted the support of many grassroots party activists, and a YouGov poll commissioned by the Times showed Corbyn to be the first preference of 43 percent of party supporters, way ahead of the other three candidates.

Aside from Corbyn's uncompromising socialist stances on internal British issues, his support of pro-Palestinian causes is the subject of some controversy, most recently after the resurfacing of a 2009 video showing him speaking of his “pleasure and honor” at hosting members of Hezbollah in parliament and his regret that “friends from Hamas” were prevented by Israel from arriving. In the video, Corbyn also denounced his government for designating them terror organizations.

At the Labour hustings at London's JW3 Jewish community center on Monday, Corbyn defended these statements, saying his "kind of an inclusive person," adding: "you're all my friends," gesturing towards an audience that quite obviously did not agree.

In his speech, Blair didn't address Corbyn's anti-Israel positions, but warned his party against veering too much to the left. The "debilitating feature" of the Labour leadership race, Blair said, was that it was seen as a choice between "heart and head."

"People who say their heart is with Corbyn, get a transplant," Blair told the audience, the Express reported.

While Blair didn't back any of the other three candidates, he stressed that Labour must present a strategy for government and not just be a "platform for protest" against austerity if it wants to regain power.

Labour has been engaged in a fierce leadership battle after Ed Miliband resigned following the May election, in which the Conservative Party had won reelection with a slender parliamentary majority.

Aside from Corbyn, the other candidates are shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham with 26 percent support according to the YouGov poll, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper with 20 percent, and Liz Kendal, said by the Express to be the Blairite candidate, with 11 percent.

The party leadership will be decided on September 12.

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