Tony Blair’s call for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to work together should be heeded by the next leaders of both parties, according to a senior opposition figure.
The ex-prime minister used a speech last week to push for an informal “progressive coalition” to be formed between the two parties in order to topple Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party.
And Christine Jardine, an ex-journalist who interviewed Tony Blair on the day former Labour leader John Smith died in 1994, said that such a prolific election winner should be listened to if another Tory landslide was to be avoided.
I do think any prime minister who wins three general elections and resigns in the manner of their choosing has to be respectedChristine Jardine
“I think Tony Blair is absolutely right,” the Lib Dem home affairs spokeswoman told the PA news agency.
“Now, largely because of Iraq, you wouldn’t expect me to be a fan of Tony Blair’s – and I’m not.
“However, I do think any prime minister who wins three general elections, and resigns at the time and in the manner of their choosing, has to be respected and that their opinion is worth listening to.”
The Edinburgh West MP said the 66-year-old ex-Labour leader had shown the “way ahead” for “progressive politicians who want to make the sort of difference that the current two-party system doesn’t allow”.
Asked if that meant standing aside for each other at the next election, Ms Jardine said: “I want to put it more positively – I don’t understand why we would shoot each other in the foot.
“We both want to see a government in this country that has social justice at the top of its agenda. So why would we make it difficult for each other?”
Her words echo those of acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, who used an article in the Sunday Times to argue that the two opposition outfits could find “common ground” on issues such as tackling climate change and fighting the SNP in Scotland.
Former party leader Tim Farron also signalled his support, tweeting after Mr Blair’s speech that there should be a “shared understanding of a common purpose and a common opponent”.
Ms Jardine said past events in modern British political history demonstrated that a loose alliance could help usher in a progressive government at the next general election in four years’ time.
The Lib Dems returned just 11 seats at the December election but came second in 80 constituencies – a position that Ms Jardine said had similarities to the 1992 general election.
Sir John Major’s Tory victory at that election also marked Labour’s fourth poll loss on the trot – a record Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour matched in 2019.
Ms Jardine, who some insiders tip will run for leader in the summer, said: “There is a huge parallel between now and 1992 and what came after it.
He is right. We both need to show humility about our limitations along with seriousness about power. This doesnât mean a pact or a formal alliance, but it does mean a shared understanding of a common purpose and a common opponent. Time to start winning. https://t.co/MoHNtInehJ— Tim Farron (@timfarron) February 20, 2020
“British politics is cyclical and I think we are again in a very similar position to 92.
“That’s four general elections in a row that the Conservatives have been the biggest party.
“So we have to be thinking about how we beat the Tories. It is not about the c-word, it is not about coalition – but we have to be talking to each other.”
And she had a message for her own future party leader, due to be elected from the current crop of MPs in July, that they must take Mr Blair’s warnings seriously.
“Our next leader needs to recognise that we have to be working with other people. That’s the crucial thing,” added the former BBC reporter.
“Tony Blair spoke about this being a make or break time for the Labour Party, but I think you can take it further and say that over the next year we all need to get it right.
“It is make or break for opposition to the Tories.”