Tony Blair warns Keir Starmer not to be 'complacent' about becoming PM

Tony Blair warns Keir Starmer not to be ‘complacent’ about prospects of becoming PM after local elections – as SNP boasts that it would use a hung Parliament to ‘undo Brexit’ and reintroduce free movement rules

  • Labour made big local elections gains but still not set for a Commons majority

Tony Blair today warned Keir Starmer not to be ‘complacent’ about his prospects of becoming PM after the local elections.

Labour scored significant wins in the town hall polls last week, but the former premier cautioned that the leader should not ‘take anything for granted’.

The comments from the New Labour architect came as Sir Keir gathers his shadow cabinet to urge them to demonstrate they can be a ‘big reforming government’.

Despite Sir Keir boldly claiming he is on track to win an outright majority at the next general election, analysis from the council elections suggest he would have fallen short last week.

The SNP has already been boasting that it will hold the balance of power if there is a hung Parliament, vowing to ‘undo Brexit’ and force a Scottish independence referendum.

The Lib Dems have also been indicating that they will push for proportional representation if Sir Keir needs to rely on other parties to prop him up in No10. 

Keir Starmer will warn his shadow cabinet the ‘hardest part lies ahead’ today after local election results showed he has not yet sealed the deal with voters

Labour scored significant wins in the town hall polls last week, but Tony Blair told Bloomberg News that the leader should not ‘take anything for granted’

The SNP (Humza Yousaf pictured left) and Lib Dems (Ed Davey pictured right) could hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament

Closely-watched projections have found that Labour would have 298 MPs if Thursday’s results were replicated at a general election

Sir Tony told Bloomberg News that Sir Keir needed to recognise that ‘you can’t be complacent about these things at all’.

‘The local election results were pretty good really, very bad for the Conservatives, but you don’t take anything for granted. And I’m sure he won’t,’ Sir Tony said.

‘What you will find I think over the next few months is that the Labour Party sets out more of a detailed policy stall for government.’

Asked whether Sir Keir was the heir to New Labour, Sir Tony said things had moved on, but added: ‘Is he essentially trying to fight from the centre and construct a modern agenda? Yeah I think he’s trying to do that.’

Labour gained 635 councillors across England in last week’s polls as the Conservatives lost 960 seats under Rishi Sunak’s leadership – worse than most Tories had feared.

The Opposition was encouraged by winning control of councils in the Brexit-backing areas of Dover, Blackpool, Medway, Erewash, and Stoke.

But the national vote share gave Sir Keir’s supporters pause for thought and Mr Sunak some grounds for hope.

The Tories were on 29 per cent, the worst in a significant ballot event since 2013. 

Labour was up five points on 2019 on 36 per cent – but that was only a marginal improvement on a year ago. 

Closely-watched projections by academics Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher found that Labour would have 298 MPs if Thursday’s results were replicated at a general election.

That would be up 95 on the standings from 2019 – but still around 30 short of an outright majority. 

Meanwhile, the Tories are on track to plunge 127 seats to just 238.

The estimates were based on the 4.2million ballots cast for councillors, and come with the caveat that behaviour is often different in Westminster polls.

Addressing his shadow cabinet today, Sir Keir is expected to say: ‘The fact that Labour won in all parts of the country was a sign of the strides we have made. People who turned away from us during the Corbyn years and the Brexit years are coming back.

‘But there is understandably a lot of scepticism about politics out there and now we need to go from reassurance to hope. We need to show that we will be a big reforming government bringing hope of a better life for working people.’

Sir Keir will tell his team to focus on the NHS rather than ‘woke’ issues, after getting into trouble over questions such as whether women can have penises.

The Labour leader also spoke to newly-elected Labour councillors, saying they have been given a ‘mandate to deal with the cost of living’.

Addressing a gathering of 22 council leaders at the party’s HQ in central London, he said the British public was ‘crying out for change’.

Labour is considering putting higher taxes on foreign buyers of UK homes as the party seeks to pressure the Government on the housing crisis.

The 2 per cent surcharge on stamp duty for overseas buyers could be increased, as well as banning them from purchasing more than 50 per cent of homes in a development.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn dismissed Sir Keir’s insistence that he would not bow to pressure on policies.

‘I’m actually quite excited about where we are at the moment because what we see is a big shift away from the Conservatives in England, but it’s a shift that is not going to deliver a majority government for Labour at Westminster and that very much brings us into play because it affords us the opportunity, the very real opportunity, of holding the balance of power at Westminster,’ he said in a round of interviews this morning.

‘We would be very clear in terms of our asks. We would want the cost of living to be put front and centre of the policy prospectus of any UK government.

‘We would want to see the damage that has been caused by Brexit rolled back, not just to boost our economy but to boost our public services as well.

‘And of course, we would be very, very keen to see a UK government, particularly a UK Labour government, deliver the powers to Holyrood to hold an independence referendum.’

SNP Europe spokesman Alyn Smith said: ‘Brexit has been a disaster for Scotland and the UK – costing our economy billions, damaging the NHS, and contributing to the cost of living crisis – and there’s been a conspiracy of silence on it from Labour and the Tories. 

‘While independence is the only way for Scotland to regain our EU membership, the SNP could hold the balance of power at the next election and we would use our influence to undo Brexit as far as possible and demand the UK has a close relationship with the EU.’ 

The MP added: ‘With all the signs pointing to a hung parliament, the SNP could force a minority Labour government to rejoin the EU single market, reintroduce free movement and transfer power for an independence referendum to Edinburgh, so Scotland can regain our place in Europe.’

Rishi Sunak (pictured taking part in the Big Help Out campaign yesterday) is facing Tory disquiet after dismal local elections last week 

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