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9 Times Tony Blair Has Hinted That Ed Miliband Is Not Up To The Job

He's not really helping Miliband convince the nation he would make a good prime minister.

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Former prime minister Tony Blair has once again offered what can only be described as a lukewarm endorsement of Ed Miliband as Labour leader. He told BBC Radio 4: "I’m not sure he has a problem. That will be for the people to choose.”

Blair won three consecutive general elections for Labour after moving the party into central ground before winning power in 1997. He is convinced that shifting back to the left would be electorally disastrous for the party.

Miliband has been labelled "Red Ed" by some newspapers after union backing helped him win the leadership in 2010. His older brother David, Blair's former policy chief, had been widely expected to take the crown. Blair was careful not to publicly endorse any candidate in the 2010 leadership election but privately threw his weight behind David.

Blair avoided commenting on the domestic politics scene for a good while after the shock vote – but in recent months has found the lure of interviews irresistible. And it seems he can't resist a sly dig in Ed Miliband's direction when pushed.

Meanwhile, Miliband has been at pains to distance himself both from the man who took the nation to war in Iraq and the tainted "New Labour" tag. He famously took to the party conference stage in 2011 to boldly declare: "I'm not Tony Blair" – and paused to hear the boos from activists at the mention of the former PM's name.

1. December 2014, The Economist

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Blair gave an interview to The Economist in which he suggested Labour wouldn't win the general election because it has veered too much to the left and failed to win over business. He said the election risked becoming one in which a “traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”.

He added: “I am still very much New Labour and Ed would not describe himself in that way, so there is obviously a difference there. I am convinced the Labour Party succeeds best when it is in the centre ground.”

Later he insisted his remarks had been "misinterpreted" and that he expected a Labour victory in May 2015.

2. April 2013, New Statesman

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Blair has warned Miliband not to turn Labour into a left-wing party of protest. In an article for the New Statesman, he said it was "back as the party opposing 'Tory cuts'" and was in danger of becoming a "repository for people's anger". He warned: "In these times, above all people want leadership."


3. November 2014, Wall Street Journal

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Note that word "if".

Blair's comments to the Wall Street Journal were interpreted as a sign that he does not believe Miliband is not a strong leader. He also warned against trying to "out-UKIP UKIP".

4. October 2014, Progress

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Blair warned Labour against pandering to UKIP in a punchy interview with Progress magazine. He said the party shouldn't "end up chasing after the policies of a party like UKIP, who you don’t agree with, whose policies would take this country backwards economically, politically, in every conceivable way".

5. October 2014, Telegraph

The Telegraph reported that Blair told political allies that Labour would lose the next election because Miliband had failed to win over voters.

“The Conservatives will be the next government because Labour has failed to make a good case for itself. That is what Tony thinks,” one source told the newspaper. “He does not think that Miliband can beat Cameron.”

But Blair’s office insisted that “is not his view”.

6. September 2013, BBC Radio 4

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Blair outright criticised Miliband when he refused to back military action in Syria. David Cameron had hoped to join the US in air strikes against the Assad regime in the wake of horrific chemical weapons attacks on civilians.

Blair told BBC Radio 4 that the consequences of inaction would be "long and bloody and difficult and expensive and worse."

7. December 2014, New York Times

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Blair appeared to take a swipe at Miliband by hitting out at career politicians. He told the New York Times: "How many leaders and, for that matter, followers in a parliament or congress have real-life experience in responsible positions outside of politics?"

Miliband spent a few months working as a researcher for Channel 4’s A Week in Politics before being recruited by then shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Harriet Harman. He then worked for Gordon Brown, who appointed him as special adviser in 1997.

8. October 2013, The Independent

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Blair had made the same point a year before in a Q&A chaired by The Independent.

He told aspiring youngsters: "Go and work for a community organisation, a business, start your own business; do anything that isn’t politics for at least several years. And then, when you come back into politics, you will find you are so much better able to see the world and how it functions properly."

9. December 2014, The Independent

The Independent reported that Blair has told pals he is backing shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna to be the next Labour leader.

The paper reported how the former prime minister sees Umunna as a "natural heir" to his New Labour legacy.

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at

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