While showering current Labour leader Keir Starmer with compliments, former prime minister Tony Blair acknowledged that a shock win for Rishi Sunak’s Tories in the next general election cannot be completely ruled out, despite their current poor standing in the polls.
However, Blair firmly believes that the UK will not be rejoining the European Union anytime soon and that it may be a matter for future generations to decide.
In an interview, Blair spoke about his opposition to Brexit, which he expressed during the 2016 referendum in the UK.
He even went so far as to travel to Northern Ireland with former Tory leader John Major to caution against the potential impact of Brexit on the fragile peace in the region.
Following his surprise win over Labour in 1992, Major laid the foundations of peace talks with pro-Irish militants, which Blair went on to build into a landmark agreement in 1998.
Major’s election win accelerated Labour’s conversion from a flirtation with the far-left in the 1980s to electoral respectability, and Blair won a landslide five years later.
Then, the Conservatives were rebuilding after the political demise of Margaret Thatcher. Today, under Sunak, they are trying to rebuild after political and economic tumult under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
Starmer’s Labour has a commanding lead in opinion polls, averaging 20 points, ahead of the next election likely to take place in 2024.
But Sunak personally polls better than his rival, drawing media comparisons to the 1992 contest between Major and his Labour opponent, Neil Kinnock, who voters decided was not ready to be prime minister.
Asked if Sunak could pull off a repeat upset, Blair said: “In politics, you should never talk of certainties, because there aren’t any.”
Sunak, whose presentational style has been compared to Blair, was “repairing the damage that has been done” to the Conservative brand by Johnson and Truss, he said.
But however much Sunak improves the party’s standing, voters will still be taxed higher and receiving less in public services come the next election.
“And I also think that Keir is a very sensible guy. He’s someone who looks like he can lead the country,” Blair added.
“In the immortal words of Sir Rod Stewart, it’s time to give the other lot a go, or whatever he said.”
The British rock crooner, a lifelong Conservative, said in January that “I’ve never seen it so bad… change the bloody government” and let Labour in.
While both Blair and Starmer campaigned to keep Britain in the EU, the current Labour leader has ruled out rejoining the bloc’s single market as a compromise step after Brexit.