Swipe at Scottish Labour as Blair says ex-Tory leader was SNP’s only opposition

PA

Tony Blair has delivered a damning verdict on Scottish Labour by insisting the only effective opposition the SNP faced in the past decade was when Ruth Davidson was Tory leader.

The brutal swipe comes as Scottish Labour has again been plunged into turmoil with the resignation of its leader just months ahead of Holyrood elections.

The Labour former prime minister also used a Chatham House event to call for public regulation of social media as he criticised decisions by Twitter and others to ban President Donald Trump from their platforms in the wake of the mob storming of the US Capitol building last week.

Asked about devolution, Mr Blair said: “I think… what has put Scottish independence back centre-stage again are two things.

“First of all the Labour Party lost its position in Scotland completely for, I think, reasons that were avoidable.

“And, really, the only effective opposition that has come to the SNP in the last decade was actually when Ruth Davidson was the Conservative Party leader in Scotland.

“And, the second thing was that Brexit put it back on the agenda again. The fact is it’s given the nationalists a whole new lease of life.”

The comments came a day after Scottish Labour began a search for its fifth leader in seven years after the sudden resignation of Richard Leonard from the post ahead of parliamentary elections in May.

Questioned by Tory former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt at the policy institute’s virtual forum, Mr Blair insisted tech giants such as Twitter needed regulation.

He said: “I think you have got to treat these companies, to a degree, as public interest companies.

“And, no, it can’t be right that the CEO of the company decides whether the president of the United States has a platform, or not.

“So, you are going to have to find some way of getting a system of regulation that is not simply driven by the views of the company.

“It is part of what is a big debate, which is: how do you regulate these large technology companies that have an influence politically of an outsize amount.”

The ex-prime minister insisted the Leave or Remain EU argument was now over and should be replaced by a debate on change or decline for the UK.

He said: “I campaigned so long and so passionately against Brexit because I believed it to be a strategic error not just of policy but of destiny.

“I haven’t changed my mind about its wisdom. But reality is reality. We have done it. We must live with it. We should make the best of it.

“It is no longer ‘Leave or Remain’ but ‘change or decline’.

“The right response therefore, is to treat Brexit as a jolt, to act as a catalyst for change.”

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