Tony Blair has advised those going to the polls to consider voting for the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats in order to weaken the Prime Minister’s mandate for a hard Brexit.
The former Prime Minister said it was important to vote for candidates who had an “open mind” on the final deal and that people should not limit their votes to just Labour because the issue was “bigger than party allegiance”.
He also praised Theresa May, arguing: “She’s very sensible, she’s a very decent person, she’s very solid, I agree with a lot she says.”
Mr Blair has previously admitted that he “wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform” like Jeremy Corbyn’s, “even if I thought it was the route to victory”.
Speaking on Sunday on the BBC’s The World This Weekend programme he said: “The absolutely central question at this general election is less who is the prime minister on 9 June, and more what is the nature of the mandate.
“Otherwise frankly this is a steamroller election – is it possible that we can return as many members of parliament as possible to parliament that are going to keep an open mind on this Brexit negotiation until we see the final terms.”
Asked whether this political approach could mean voting Liberal Democrat, Mr Blair replied: “What I’m advocating may mean that. It may mean voting Labour. It may mean, by the way, that they vote Tory, for candidates who are prepared to give this commitment.”
“This is something that’s bigger than party allegiance, in this particular election.”
The former Prime Minister said candidates should be asked whether they backed Brexit “at any cost” or whether they were prepared to say any final deal was not in the interests of the country.
Mr Blair’s advice comes despite Ms May suggesting that votes for the Conservatives are an indication of the country “coming together” behind her Brexit plan.
He said that he personally “will always vote Labour”.
The former PM’s comments provoked anger on social media, with some Labour members suggesting he be ejected from the party for backing rival candidates. Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn, said Mr Blair “should be kicked out of the party”.
Labour’s rulebook states that “a member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member”.
One Labour source poured derision on Mr Blair’s comments, telling The Independent that “voting for the Lib Dems because you’re unhappy with Brexit is like voting for them because you don’t like tuition fees”.
Mr Blair also hinted at the possibility of a political return. He said: “I look at the British political scene at the moment and I actually almost feel motivated to go right back into it.”
A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn said: “On 9 June, we will either have a Labour government or a Tory one.
“If you want Brexit to be used to turn Britain into a low-wage tax haven, vote Tory. If you want a Britain for the many not the few after Brexit, vote Labour. The choice is clear.”