Monday, 27 Jan 2020

General election: Tony Blair praises predecessor Sir John Major’s Brexit intervention

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair has praised his Conservative predecessor’s Brexit intervention, telling a pre-election rally: “Thank God for John Major.”

The ex-Labour premier hailed Sir John’s call for voters to support rebel candidates rather than Conservative Party hopefuls next Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Sir John said he would vote for ex-Tory ministers David Gauke, Dominic Grieve and Anne Milton if he lived in their constituencies.

Ms Milton, Mr Gauke and Mr Grieve lost the Conservative whip earlier this year after voting against Mr Johnson on Brexit, and are now running against official Tory candidates as independents.

After Sir John spoke via video link at an anti-Brexit rally in central London on Friday night, Mr Blair told the audience: “Here are five words I never thought I would say: thank God for John Major.”

He also mentioned Michael Heseltine, who attended the rally and is another former Conservative minister who has criticised Brexit and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Blair added: “To John, to Michael Heseltine, for years I stood against you, tonight, it is an honour to stand with you.

“And to David Gauke and many others, good, smart, capable people across the political spectrum prepared to speak out, to put country before party and principle before position. Your courage is an example.”

Ahead of the 12 December ballot, Mr Blair claimed Mr Johnson “does not deserve” to win a majority and suggested a hung parliament would be a better outcome than a “country hung for want of leadership”.

He criticised how the Conservative Party now “disowns the statesmanship” of Sir John and “expels the likes of Michael Heseltine”.

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Mr Blair also referred to Philip Hammond, who was among those 21 MPs to have the Conservative whip withdrawn by Mr Johnson earlier this year.

He added: “A party whose chancellor as of July this year is now exiled in the wilderness for the temerity to say what he knows to be true, namely that a no-deal Brexit is a risk no responsible government would take, such a Conservative Party does not deserve to govern unchecked and the country would not be wise to let them.”

Mr Blair confirmed he would vote Labour next Thursday but told voters to support “the best candidates”.

“There are great Labour candidates who deserve wholehearted support,” he said.

“I am voting Labour. But let me put it this way.

“If you look, constituency by constituency, you will know the best candidates to back. Back them.

“I know this election is horrible. It’s like finding your way through a maze where at every turn you find something shocking.”

He added: “Not in my lifetime and maybe never again in yours has there been such a choice of such moment.”

Asked earlier in the day to comment on Sir John’s intervention, Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very sad and I think that he is wrong, and I think that he represents a view that is outdated, alas, greatly that I respect him and his record, and I think that what we need to do now is honour the will of the people and get Brexit done.”

The Brexit Election on Sky News – the fastest results and in-depth analysis on mobile, TV and radio.

  • Watch Dermot Murnaghan live from 9pm on 12 December
  • See the exit poll at 10pm
  • Watch [email protected] election special on 13 December
  • Find out what happens next in All Out Politics special from 9am with Adam Boulton

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