September 10, 2015 / 7:49 AM / 3 years ago

George Osborne says opposition Labour risks going back to 1980s

LONDON (Reuters) - The opposition Labour Party risks returning to the political wilderness of the 1980s if it elects socialist Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, Conservative finance minister George Osborne said in an interview with the New Statesman magazine.

British Finance Minister George Osborne listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in Ankara, Turkey, September 5, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Corbyn, who wants to return Labour to its socialist roots, is the frontrunner for the leadership of the party after its electoral defeat in the May election. The new leader is due to be announced on Saturday.

“For most of my childhood and early adult life, a succession of Labour Party leaders reformed the constitution of the Labour Party. Neil Kinnock did, John Smith did, Tony Blair did, to make sure that it was more rooted in what the British people wanted,” Osborne told the weekly magazine.

“And it does seem, as an external observer, that a generation’s work has been unravelled in the space of 12 months,” Osborne, who is seen as a potential successor to Prime Minister David Cameron, was quoted as saying.

Labour tacked to the left under Ed Miliband, who quit in May after leading the party to its worst election defeat since 1987. Now, in the midst of a period of soul searching as it picks his successor, the party is split over its future direction.

Corbyn says that if he gains power he would nationalise previously privatised monopolies, cut back the British army and unilaterally scrap Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

“Jeremy Corbyn has dragged two of the Labour leadership candidates to the left. He is clearly being supported by a large body of activists in the Labour Party, and supporters in the trade union movement,” Osborne said.

“So it’s not about one individual. It’s a party and a movement that I think is heading in the wrong direction... if they want to go back to the 1980s, let them. The Conservative Party is not doing that.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Costas Pitas

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