Alastair Campbell has warned the UK Labour Party not to elect Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader and defended former prime minister Tony Blair at a Foreign Correspondents’ Club speech entitled “Winners and How They Succeed.”

Campbell, formerly chief spokesman and strategist for Blair, told club members on Tuesday that electing Corbyn could present a problem for the party. He said that it would be “very difficult, for somebody who has rebelled against the Labour whip more than 500 times, to kind of expect his MPs [Members of Parliament] to be loyal.”

Alistair Campbell (left) and Jeremy Corbyn (right). Photo: FCC HK and Wikimedia Commons.
Alistair Campbell (left) and Jeremy Corbyn (right). Photo: FCC HK and Wikicommons.

He said there was a danger Corbyn would push Labour to the left, despite British voters rejecting Labour leaders such as Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, who were known to be more centre-leaning.

He also defended his former boss Tony Blair’s tenure as prime minister, calling him Labour’s “most successful ever leader.”

“… I think I know a lot of people respected him a lot less at the end than at the beginning… I think it’s a tragedy in a way because… the Conservatives have always managed to respect their former leaders.”

Campbell went on to admit that, despite their popularity, a “situation” had developed whereby he and Blair are seen as a “virus” when they speak out

“…when Tony Blair, or I, or anybody else comes out and say, ‘Don’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn,’ the Jeremy Corbyn people are gonna [say] ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s gonna help us,’” he said, “be careful what you wish for.”

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The UK Labour Party is currently undergoing a leadership election. The results will be announced on September 12. Corbyn is one of the frontrunners alongside Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

Alastair Campbell was Director of Communications and Strategy for prime minister Tony Blair between 1997 and 2003. He is now a writer.

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Mr Campbell referred to Tony Blair as Britain’s “most successful ever leader” as opposed to Labour’s. 

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.