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Labour ‘lost its soul’ under Tony Blair says union leader Mick Whelan

Whelan believes Jeremy Corbyn has been a “real breath of fresh air”.

Labour “lost its soul” under Tony Blair but tens of thousands of people have joined the party because of the progressive policies now being put forward, according to a senior union leader.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said there were times during the New Labour years when the trade unions were treated by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson as if they were distant relatives rather than close family friends – an “embarrassing uncle” at the Christmas party – and it was sometimes hard to “keep the faith”.

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(Jonathan Brady/PA)

Writing in his union’s magazine, Mr Whelan noted that the Labour vote fell in 2001 and again in 2005.

“It wasn’t just the Iraq War which did for Toxic Tony, it was the fact that under Tony Blair the Labour Party lost its soul. Under Jeremy Corbyn, that has changed.

“Off the back of an unexpected, and debilitating, defeat at the general election in 2015, Jeremy has brought in, or brought back, tens of thousands of new members, activists and supporters who had either left because of the sell-outs, and triangulation, of the New Labour years, or had never been interested in politics because they felt that Labour offered the same sort of discredited policies, in the wake of the global financial collapse, as the Tories.”

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(Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Whelan, who chairs the group which liaises between Labour and its affiliated trade unions, said Mr Corbyn had been a “real breath of fresh air”.

He added: “Jeremy, who believes in the core values and traditional aspirations of the Labour Party, is running on a progressive platform which I believe will excite voters put off by the machinations of the New Labour years.”

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