Tony Blair says Keir Starmer must shun 'woke' issues if Labour is to win power

26 November 2021, 00:41 | Updated: 26 November 2021, 00:52

Sir Keir Starmer should 'emphatically reject' so-called wokeism, Tony Blair has said.
Sir Keir Starmer should 'emphatically reject' so-called wokeism, Tony Blair has said. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

Tony Blair has said Labour needs to "emphatically reject wokeism" if it is to win power again.

In part of his foreword to a new report which suggests Labour will need an even bigger swing than in the 1997 landslide to win the next general election, Mr Blair said: "We should openly embrace liberal, tolerant but common sensical positions on the 'culture' issues, and emphatically reject the 'wokeism' of a small, though vocal, minority."

"Woke" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary website as being "alert to injustice in society, especially racism", but is used by some in a critical context.

Mr Starmer himself, speaking to LBC in June, refused to say whether he was "woke".

Boris Johnson's government, meanwhile, has regularly been associated with waging a so-called "war on woke" over the past two years.

Mr Blair's words form part of another broadside against left-wing members of the party, with the former prime minister arguing Mr Starmer needs to continue to push them "back to the margins" – having already distanced himself from predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

He argued the party still has a "culture problem with many working class voters" as well as a "credibility problem" with those in the centre of the political spectrum.

Backing Mr Starmer's leadership, Mr Blair – who is the last person to have led Labour to an election win, in 2005 – said Labour "could do it again" and return to power for the first time since 2010. "Its leadership today is capable of governing and confidence is returning. The corner is turned," he said.

The report, "From Red Walls to Red Bridges: Rebuilding Labour's Voter Coalition", commissioned by the Tony Blair Institute, found more than 11 million ex-Labour voters failed to vote for the party in 2019, with 5.5 million turning to Mr Johnson's Conservatives.

It suggested Labour needs to win more than 120 seats at the next election, which would require a 12 per cent swing – even bigger than in 1997.

Recent polls have shown the Conservative lead over Labour narrowing, or having been overturned. For example, Savanta ComRes polling published on Wednesday put Labour two points ahead.

But former YouGov president Peter Kellner, in a summary of the report, said: "The party has barely started to climb the mountain it must conquer."