Tony Blair wants Keir Starmer to reject woke politics and present a programme for government that is radical without being dangerous. A report published by the Tony Blair Institute examined the impact of class on voting in the 2019 general election and beyond. According to analysis by the veteran pollster Peter Kellner, Labour has some problems with two groups: the 26% of voters who fit into the formal definition of middle class and the 12% who would be defined as working class by pollsters but consider themselves middle class.
The first group voted 57% to stay in the EU, but the Conservatives were 22% ahead with these voters in 2019, despite their central message being that they would get Brexit done. The second group, who Blair called the aspirational working class voted to leave the EU by a narrower 53% but backed the Conservatives over Labour by a 32% margin.
Blair claims that despite disagreeing with the party onBrexit, a large number of voters voted to remain with the party on the subject of a punchy foreword. They thought Labour's far-left economic policy was a bigger threat than Brexit. Without the millstone of Starmer's predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, Blair claims Labour can win many of these voters back, and analysis of recent polling shows a 12% swing to Labour among this blue-collar aspirational group.
The former prime minister suggests that they are social conservatives, and therefore urges Labour to make sure that it is on the centre ground on cultural war issues such as transgender rights.
Blair says the party should plant Labour's feet clearly near the centre of gravity of the British people, who want fair treatment for all and an end to prejudice, but distrust and dislike the cancel culture woke mentality. Labour has struggled with cultural war issues. For example, Anneliese Dodds, the party chair, was recently criticised for not giving a straightforward answer to the question: What is a woman? A clear frontbench line has been agreed, which has resulted in the shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting telling an interviewer: Men have penises, women have vaginas, here ends my biology lesson. The Conservative party co-chair Oliver Dowden has tried to capitalise on the party's discomfort, accusing Starmer in a speech of kowtowing to the cancel culture brigade and claiming that the Corbynistas are still there. Starmer has been accused by some on the left of Labour of winning the leadership under false pretences by espousing key tenets of Corbynism during the campaign in 2020 and then moving towards the centre ground.
Blair says Labour needs to work on rebuilding its credibility, as he says that the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has already begun to do.
Labour must deal with both its cultural and economic aspirations problems. It has to do the first to regain those voters who went to Tory despite being traditional blue collar. These are the northern red wallers, but Labour must do the second to have a realistic chance of winning, he says.
He warns Starmer against excessive caution, something the Labour leader is charged with with. He says the ban on progressive politics is to think the choice is between being voter-friendly and boring or exciting and voter-repellent.
As an example of the kind of radical policy he would like to see, Blair suggests tackling the concerns of illegal immigration by introducing biometric ID as a precondition for access to work and public services.