'Keir Starmer will be seen as the saviour of the Labour Party', says Alan Johnson

30 June 2022, 20:05 | Updated: 30 June 2022, 20:09

By Megan Hinton

A former Shadow Chancellor has said Keir Starmer could be remembered in history as being "the saviour of Labour" as he rejected the idea the party leader "lacked charisma".

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Alan Johnson, who held five ministerial positions under the governments of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, defended Sir Keir's ruling of the party, claiming he has made a "miraculous achievement".

"I think Keir Starmer may well be seen, historically, as the saviour of the Labour party because I thought we were dead in the water after 2019," Mr Johnson said on Thursday's Tonight with Andrew Marr.

"After that terrible result, we lost Bishop Auckland for God's sakes, I mean I can give you a list of the seats that we lost and you know, the party had been taken over by the far left.

Read more: Boris refuses to rule out calling an early general election three times

Alan Johnson said said Keir Starmer will be remembered in history as being "the saviour of Labour"
Alan Johnson said said Keir Starmer will be remembered in history as being "the saviour of Labour". Picture: Alamy

"The far left have always been trying to take over the party and they're perfectly entitled to stand on their own platform but not on ours.

"And it looked like we would become some kind of cuckoo's nest and Keir was sane enough and rational enough to want to do this god-awful position as leader of the opposition.

"And he has come in and he has got our party back. He was 27 points behind in the opinion polls, now he's 10 points in front and for kind of two years of the time he has been there nothing much was happening because it was Covid.

"And you hear voices saying 'oh it should be 20 points, it should be 30 points'... that is a miraculous achievement."

Today Sir Tony Blair has suggested the Labour Party should listen to his advice on policy if it wants to "seal the deal" at the next general election.

The former Labour Prime Minister, who acknowledged that he was not currently popular amid all sections of the party, said he believed that Labour under Sir Keir Starmer could win the next election.

Read more: Boris faces fresh backbench threat as three Tory MPs 'open talks to defect to Labour'

But, addressing a receptive crowd at the Future Of Britain conference in central London partly organised by his own institute, he also warned that success on polling day was not determined by arithmetic but a clear policy agenda.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Jon Sopel, Sir Tony was also clear that his advice was not exclusively for Labour but instead for any progressive politician or party.

"I want to build a strong policy agenda and then it is there for reasonable people, whether they are Conservative Party, Labour Party, Lib Dems, whatever, to take it up and at least you get people debating how to change the country in a way that bears some resemblance to the reality of the challenge we face."

"Sometimes politics isn't about just going with the flow, it is about resisting it as well," he told the conference.

He rejected the suggestion, in the face of the rise of the far-left and the far-right in France, that voters did not want so-called "centrist" politics anymore.

Read more: Hard to say Tories deserve to win snap general election now, says Conservative MP

He admitted that while a lot of people might hate centrist politics, he said that there was no point in politics if you did not stand up for your beliefs.

"It is a fight. There is going to be a big struggle," he admitted.

Referencing the victory of Joe Biden in the US in 2020, he said: "Does that mean the fight is over? No. But it means it is not a hopeless fight."

A persistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn, he said that Sir Keir had done an "amazing" job to reform the party, quipping that he had only had to follow on from former leaders Neil Kinnock and John Smith.

"For Labour to win the next election, it has got to have a policy agenda, that is absolutely clear."