Blair suggests Socialists need to modernise

23rd May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 23, 2007 (AFP) - Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested Tuesday that French Socialists needed to move away from traditional ideology to gain election success after their third successive presidential defeat.

PARIS, May 23, 2007 (AFP) - Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested Tuesday that French Socialists needed to move away from traditional ideology to gain election success after their third successive presidential defeat.

In an interview broadcast simultaneously on satellite news channel France 24 and France 2 television, Blair was asked why he seemed more popular with the right-wing on the other side of the Channel than left wingers.

Blair, who reformed the Labour Party from an unelectable left-wing party to a business-friendly, progressive outfit, said left-right divisions still had their place, but stressed that modern politics was also about "right and wrong".

Progressive politics and politicians are open to attack from traditionalists and accusations of betraying party principles, he said, but added: "The principle should always be, what is best for the country?"

Blair, 54, whose reforms still rankle with Labour's traditional left-wing, trade union backers, said he had friends in France's Socialist Party.

This month's presidential election, which saw right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy beat Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, captured the imagination of the world, he said, praising the high turn-out and "intelligent" campaigning.

Asked if, like his creation of "New Labour", there now needed to be a "New Socialist" party in France in the light of the left's defeat, he said: "I think those are judgments the French Socialist Party has got to make.

"If I were them, I would look at why did we lose. In the end, it's only if you are able to win that you can transfer your principles into practice."

The election of Sarkozy provided a "fantastic opportunity" for France, Blair said.

He added in French: "He's strong, he's clear, he's modern. These are extremely important qualities in today's world.

"And I believe that it's possible to work with him to contribute to European modernisation and have the UK and France work together hand in hand for the future. He's also a friend and someone I admire a lot."

Asked if he had any advice for the new leader, he said: "He doesn't need my advice. The most important thing, I know he believes this himself, is to make the change."

Blair said if he had one regret during his 10 years in office, it was not moving forward change more quickly in his first years as prime minister.

He steps down as Britain's leader on June 27. His finance minister, Gordon Brown, is set to take over.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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