Tony Blair blasts Jeremy Corbyn, but refuses to endorse leadership candidate

Tony Blair's speech today Credit: Progress

Tony Blair has repeatedly rebuked left-wing leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, and warned the Labour Party against any shift from the centre in a major speech this morning.

The former prime minister, who was speaking at the centrist think-tank Progress, was reacting to the fact that the first public opinion poll taken on the Labour leadership race had put Corbyn into a shock lead.

Blair said that the left-winger was the "Tory preference" and urged supporters to engage "very strongly" in challenge he represented. However, he refused to be drawn on which of the other candidates he was backing for leader, admitting that his endorsement might not help them.

Blair also insisted that the party shouldn't lurch to the left following its latest election defeat.

"After the 1979 election the Labour Party persuaded itself of something absolutely extraordinary," he said.

"Jim Callaghan had been prime minister and the Labour Party was put out of power by Margaret Thatcher and the Labour Party persuaded itself that the reason why the country had voted for Margaret Thatcher was because they wanted a really left wing Labour Party.

"This is what I call the theory that the electorate is stupid, that somehow they haven't noticed that Margaret Thatcher was somewhat to the right of Jim Callaghan."