In his first comments on the party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the former prime minister said the party was “in danger of not asking the right questions, never mind failing to get the right answers”.
In an article called In defence of Blairism for the Spectator magazine, he criticised the new Labour leadership, saying: “All of it is about applying values with an open mind; not boasting of our values as a way of avoiding the hard thinking the changing world insists upon”.”
Blair said “significant elements of the party [during Labour’s time in power] saw the process of governing with all its compromises, pragmatism and embrace of changing times as implicit betrayal of our principles”.
“Many – especially in today’s Labour party – felt we lost our way in government. I feel we found it. But I accept in the process we failed to convince enough people that the true progressives are always the modernisers, not because they discard principle but because they have the courage to adhere to it when confronted with reality.”
Blair argued that although Labour made mistakes in power, his was a “radical, reforming” government. “We tried to put the moral purpose of the Labour party into practice, the only sort of morality worth very much,” he said.
“We didn’t spot the financial crisis – along with the rest of the world. It was more an absence of understanding than an absence of a will to regulate which was the issue.”
On foreign policy, he said: “Post 9/11, I became convinced that Islamist extremism was the security issue of our time. People can agree or disagree with the decisions which I took and the emphasis I put on the partnership with the USA, but I took them not in defiance of progressive politics but in furtherance of them.”
Echoing a speech made last week by the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, to parliament before the vote on extending anti-Isis airstrikes in Syria, Blair said: “I believed then and believe now that this extremism is a modern form of fascism, albeit one based on religious doctrine and that we’re engaged in a global war against it.”
Speaking during the Labour leadership election to the centre-left Progress thinktank, Blair issued an appeal for Labour not to repeat the mistakes of the 1980s by adopting a traditional leftist platform, saying the party could suffer four successive election defeats if it does.
He urged Labour members not to wrap themselves in a Jeremy Corbyn comfort blanket, and that people whose heart was with the leftwing candidate should “get a transplant”.
Corbyn dismissed Blair’s comments at the time, saying: “I would have thought he could manage something more serious than those very silly remarks. Surely we should be talking about the situation facing Britain today, the situation facing many of the poorest people in this country today, and maybe think if our policies are relevant.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 9th December 2015 09.02 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010