Sunday 11 December 2016

Rival hits out at Blair's 'dire predictions' about Corbyn

Joe Churcher

Published 14/08/2015 | 02:30

Frontrunner: Jeremy Corbyn
Frontrunner: Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham pledged to fight a "positive" campaign as he hit out at Tony Blair for warning that the Labour Party faced "annihilation" if it picked Jeremy Corbyn as its next leader.

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The former frontrunner who has seen his left-wing rival shoot ahead of him in the battle to succeed Ed Miliband also criticised the "pretty appalling" behaviour of Tory MPs and other rivals seeking to exploit membership rules.

But he insisted he welcomed the arrival of tens of thousands of new supporters to the ranks of voters despite fears of "entryism".

A poll has predicted a landslide 53pc victory for Mr Corbyn in the Labour leadership race.

The YouGov poll claims he could sweep away his three contenders in the first round of votes without having to win over second preferences.

Ladbrokes has slashed its odds on the left-winger to 1/2, with Andy Burnham on 3/1 and Yvette Cooper on 4/1.

Contest

In a stark intervention, Mr Blair wrote in 'The Guardian' that the party he led to three successive general election victories was "walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff's edge to the jagged rocks below.

"This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes 'disunity'. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible."

Asked if he agreed, Mr Burnham said: "Everybody is entitled to express their views on this contest, particularly former prime ministers.

"But I don't think it helps necessarily to second guess the outcome and to make these dire predictions on the back of it. I will be keeping it positive. I want to get my case over to the 600,000 people who have a vote in this contest.

"They will rightly decide the future of the Labour Party now. I think people are well aware of the issues at stake and I think the time has come to trust the members of our party and the supporters of our party to make the right decision about its future."

Amid controversy over the election process, he said it was "not the time to cry foul on the rules".

"It should be a cause for celebration that the Labour Party has the ability to bring 600,000 people into its leadership election."

Mr Burnham's campaign joined with Yvette Cooper's and Liz Kendall's in calling for quicker access to information about the latest raft of people who have been signing up to vote.

In a letter to Labour Party chiefs, they raised concerns that the information has not been made available to them despite being ready to send to the printers to prepare ballot papers. Mr Burnham said: "We are clarifying, not complaining."

Irish Independent

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