Tony Blair has claimed Labour will never win power if it “looks askance” at JK Rowling and other controversial cultural figures.
In a lengthy New Statesman essay, the former prime minister hit out at the “woke left” and “extreme identity and anti-police politics” while reflecting on Labour’s crushing election defeat.
In his wide-ranging essay, Tony Blair said the left is defaulting to “issues around culture, gender, race and identity” because they cannot meet young people’s demands for “radical policy”.
Moderate progressives, meanwhile, are trying to “steer clear of these cultural and identity issues entirely,” Blair wrote.
“The moderates – often of an older generation – don’t quite understand the strength of feeling over issues such as trans rights,” he wrote.
“They distrust their own sensors and fear tripping up or saying the wrong thing, and so have come to a position which basically says: there is no culture war, in any event we’re not playing it, or if there is and we are forced to play, we will play at the back as quietly as possible,” he added.
The former Labour leader argued that the right is intentionally stoking cultural debates and is “setting traps for the left all over the field”.
Blair went on to claim that most people support campaigns against racism, but will “recoil from some of the language and actions of the fringes of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“You could go through the entire litany of modern causes and find the same – from Extinction Rebellion to trans rights to Reclaim the Streets – in the same way.
“People like common sense, proportion and reason. They dislike prejudice; but they dislike extremism in combating prejudice.”
A progressive party can’t win if it criticises JK Rowling, Tony Blair claims
Later in his essay, Blair appeared to suggest that Labour will only win power in the future if its members take an uncritical approach to JK Rowling and other high-profile figures.
“On cultural issues, one after another, the Labour Party is being backed into electoral off-putting positions. A progressive party seeking power which looks askance at the likes of Trevor Phillips, Sara Khan or JK Rowling is not going to win,” Blair wrote.
“Progressive politics need to debate these cultural questions urgently and openly. It needs to push back strongly against those will try to shout down the debate. And to search for a new governing coalition.
“All the evidence is that it can only do this by building out from the centre ground.”
Trevor Phillips is a former politician and broadcaster who was suspended from the Labour Party in 2020 following allegations of Islamophobia, while actress Sarah Khan faced criticism when she said she isn’t a feminist because women “have greater power than men”.
Blair’s comments come less than a year after JK Rowling stoked controversy when she published a lengthy essay on her own website detailing her views on transgender people.
The Labour Party suffered significant losses in mayoral and council elections in England last week, while the Tories managed to win the a seat in the Hartlepool by-election. The seat has been held by Labour since it was created in the 1970s.