LONDON, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful election winner, will tell the opposition party it must change course after its catastrophic defeat last week or disappear as a party of government.
Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a period of reflection on Thursday’s election defeat, Labour’s worst result since 1935, though a battle is now underway for control of the party with Corbyn’s hard-left loyalists unwilling to let go.
“The choice for Labour is to renew itself as the serious, progressive, non Conservative competitor for power in British politics; or retreat from such an ambition, in which case over time it will be replaced,” Blair will say.
“So, at one level, sure let’s have a period of ‘reflection’; but any attempt to whitewash this defeat, pretend it is something other than it is, or the consequence of something other than the obvious, will cause irreparable damage to our relationship with the electorate.”
Labour won just 203 seats in the election, down 59, and saw its vote share fall by 7.8 percentage points to 32.2% while Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won 365 seats, up 47, on 43.6% of the vote.
Corbyn, beside a promise of another EU referendum in which he said he would be neutral, offered voters the most radical socialist government in British history with higher public spending, sweeping nationalisation and taxes on the wealthy. (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Estelle Shirbon)