Friday, 17 February 2017
Blair Seeks Redemption with call for Anti-Brexit Uprising
Photo credit: The Guardian
In a speech in London today to the pro-European Union (EU) campaign Open Britain, former Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, urged the British people to ‘rise up’ against leaving the EU.
Pressed on whether he thought there should be a second referendum, he said: "All I'm saying is a very, very simple thing, that this is the beginning of the debate - that if a significant part of that 52% show real change of mind, however you measure it, we should have the opportunity to reconsider this decision.”
Blair, who was Prime Minister between 1997 and 2007, has never really regained his political credibility since his fateful decision to join the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The dodgy dossier, spin and downright lies employed by Blair to persuade Parliament of the necessity of the invasion, was laid bare by the subsequent failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
He struggled on as Prime Minister until 2007, but Iraq was the beginning of the end of Blair’s premiership. He was damaged goods and it was only a matter of time before the Labour Party moved to oust him.
In the intervening years, apart from regularly defending his decision to go to war on a false prospectus, Blair has always given me the impression that he craves to be back in the political limelight, but Iraq has hung like a millstone around his neck.
But it looks as though Blair has spotted an opportunity at redeeming his reputation by advocating that Britain should not leave the EU, despite last summer’s referendum in which a majority of the British people voted to leave. Brexit is of course the biggest political issue of the day, and so Blair is likely to get a hearing in the media, unlike perhaps his thoughts on the middle-east peace process, for example.
Blair is right to point out that the decision made on 23 June last year was a snapshot of the views of the British public, which doesn’t necessarily mean that this view can’t change, especially as the implications of leaving become clearer. We should remember too, that at 52%-48% for leave, this was hardly an overwhelming mandate anyway. Views can change, and do, one narrow decision on one day in 2016, cannot be set in stone forever.
The Lib Dems political revival is being built on a pro-EU platform, with some success, and it has surely not been lost on Blair that if they can be forgiven their broken promises when in coalition with the Tories, then why can’t he be absolved from past mistakes, when championing such a noble issue as the future good of the country?
Well, I’m not sure Blair has been forgiven, particularly by many leave voters who blame him, with some justification, for allowing the sharp increase in immigration from eastern Europe, when his government failed to apply a ten year ‘emergency brake’ on immigration, which was allowed under EU rules.
I listened to a political radio phone in show on the BBC last night, just as the news of Blair’s speech was breaking, and it was met with scorn by many of the callers. Even some callers who want to remain in the EU, although agreeing with Blair’s arguments, didn’t think it helpful that he personally is the messenger. That credibility thing again.
As one caller put it, ‘you can’t believe anything he says after Iraq.’
I’m no fan of Blair’s, he is one of the main reasons why I stopped voting Labour and joined the Green Party, but he may be onto something here.
At least he is issuing a rallying call to the 16 million British people who voted to remain in the EU, which may begin to lift the gloom that has enveloped many remainers. Particularly since Corbyn led Labour’s abject capitulation to the Tory agenda on Brexit.
Let us argue the case against the government’s reckless interpretation of this great political and cultural matter, whoever the messenger happens to be.