FORMER prime minister Tony Blair has been accused from within his own party of failing to understand the UK’s economic problems.
Labour ministers spoke out yesterday after Mr Blair criticised the party’s strategy under leader Ed Miliband, complaining that Labour only opposed cuts.
In an article in the New Statesman magazine, Mr Blair said the prospect of continuing cuts to public spending was less problematic for the Conservative Party. He said: “For the Conservatives, this scenario is less menacing than it seems. They are now going to inspire loathing on the left. But they’re used to that.
“They are back on the old territory of harsh reality, tough decisions, piercing the supposed veil of idealistic fantasy that prevents the left from governing sensibly. For Labour, the opposite is true. This scenario is more menacing than it seems.”
But Thomas Docherty, Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, said: “While a former prime minister should always be listened to, it is wrong to look at the current economic situation through the prism of the 1990s.”
Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray added: “Ed is doing what is right for the country. He is taking on vested interests, he is pushing for a one-nation economy. Tony Blair would do better to stand by him.”
However, one Blairite Labour shadow minister said that the concerns expressed by the party’s most successful leader were “widely held”, with fears that Labour’s lead in the opinion polls is “soft” and concern that Mr Miliband could be leading the party to defeat.
Behind the scenes, some Labour MPs made it clear that Mr Blair’s comments were part of an ongoing struggle over the party’s future between Blairites and the Left.
One shadow minister said: “Tony is always right. He won us three elections and we are being very complacent now.”
Another said: “It is true that we have no narrative, we are not saying what we will do about the tough decisions on issues like welfare spending.
“We need a narrative, we need a story. There needs to be clarity. We don’t have any of that.”
The shadow minister added: “Our lead in the polls is soft and there appears to be a complacent attitude that we will win.”
A third shadow minister said: “I think there is a genuine concern, especially over welfare, that there are some who think we can simply start spending money again. The issue is that there is no money and there are people in senior positions who have not grasped that yet.”
But for some of Mr Miliband’s supporters, there was private fury over what they consider to be an attempt to undermine him and force a change of direction – or even replace him.
One shadow minister told The Scotsman: “It may sound terribly cynical but you cannot help but feel this was orchestrated from people within the party.”