Sir Keir Starmer has poured cold water on the idea of inviting Sir Tony Blair or Gordon Brown back into government, saying he was “looking forwards, not backwards”.
The Labour leader told a podcast that he wanted to do it “my way, with my team” rather than “running backwards in history to hug someone”.
However, it was reported that Sir Tony is working behind the scenes to help Sir Keir build relations in the Middle East. The i newspaper said he had helped assure Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, that Sir Keir was not as anti-Israel as Jeremy Corbyn, his predecessor.
Asked on The News Agents podcast whether Sir Tony or Mr Brown could make a return if he enters No 10, Sir Keir said: “I’m looking forwards, not backwards. I always look forwards, not backwards.
“Ever since I became Labour leader, almost everybody asked me which Labour leader do you most like? Which one do you want to tattoo on your head?
“There are three Labour leaders that have taken us from opposition to power – Attlee, Wilson and Blair. They are all very different individuals and the circumstances in which they fought were different. I want to be the fourth one in that list.
“The circumstances I face are different to ‘97, different to ‘64, different to ‘45, and that’s why I will do it my way, with my team, rather than sort of running backwards in history to hug someone.”
It has been reported that Sir Tony had been advising Sir Keir on transitioning to power. The i newspaper reported that he was drawing on the contacts he made as Middle East envoy for the “Quartet” of the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations between 2007 and 2015.
This involved brokering diplomatic introductions and contacts in the Middle East. Sir Tony maintains an office in Tel Aviv.
A source told the i that the former prime minister had been working to assure the Israeli government that the country can expect a consistent approach from Britain should Labour win the next general election.
Labour did not respond to a request for comment about the i story.