Tony Blair: 'I’m sorry Philip Hammond is leaving politics'

Oscar Williams-GrutSenior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Former UK prime minister Tony Blair speaking on the Future Societies stage during the opening day of Web Summit 2019 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images
Former UK prime minister Tony Blair speaking on the Future Societies stage during the opening day of Web Summit 2019 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair has said it is “not good for Britain” that MPs, like former chancellor Philip Hammond, are leaving politics.

Blair was speaking to Yahoo Finance UK at Web Summit in Lisbon, one of the largest tech conferences in the world.

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Hammond announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he will not stand in the upcoming 12 December election, ended a 22-year career as the MP for Runnymede & Weybridge.

“I’m sorry Philip Hammond is leaving politics because I think he’s shown a lot of integrity and courage in fighting his corner within the Conservative party,” Tony Blair told Yahoo Finance UK shortly after the announcement.

Hammond joins a growing list of moderate MPs who have said they will not seek re-election, citing the growing toxicity of politics. More than 50 MPs are not seeking re-election, according to the BBC. Culture secretary Nicky Morgan recently announced she would also not be standing, saying abuse from the public had had a “clear impact” on her family.

Blair said the departure of these MPs means “Parliament will be more divided and divided along the lines of the Tory party the quasi-Brexit party and the Labour party on the far left.”

“It’s not good for Britain,” Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 until 2007, said.

Hammond’s exit from politics follows his expulsion from the Conservative party in September after voting against the government on Brexit.

Blair told Yahoo Finance UK it was “unbelievable” that the party had exiled Hammond, who was the UK chancellor until July.

The growing radicalism and tribalism of British politics has also seen Blair’s own Labour party lose MPs. Seven MPs quit in February in protest over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

One of them, Luciana Berger, has announced she will stand as a Liberal Democrat MP in the Conservative seat of Finchley.

In a recent piece for the Financial Times, Blair called for people to vote tactically in the upcoming election in a bid to get more moderates into parliament.

Asked if he would support Berger as a Lid Dem, Blair said: “I wish Luciana well. I think it’s tragic that she ever felt she had to leave the Labour party and it was a shameful episode for the Labour party to put her in that position.

“I’m looking for the day in which people who basically share a centre left progressive view of the world can cooperate together and so you don’t want to lose people like that from politics if you can help that.

“Obviously I’m not advocating how people vote, I’m just expressing a view that if people are inclined to the politics that I would call the reasonable centre then they should study their constituencies carefully.

“This is an election where I think there will be more confusion amongst people as to how they should vote than any election I can remember.”

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