Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
Tony Blair may have zero moral sense, but he has great commercial acumen, and there is no doubt he spotted a gap in the market in proposing his own return to British politics. The gap is for a pro-EU political leader who does not accept the EU referendum result as the end of the debate, and will stand against the horrifying tide of racism, both on the streets and coming from the Tory party, that Brexit has unleashed.
Where Blair is deluded is in thinking that he can have any role to play. If you have not watched The Killings of Tony Blair yet, I urge you to do so. Apart from the damning verdict of even the ultra-Establishment Chilcot Report on the Iraq War, Blair’s record ever since in whoring himself out as PR man to any rich dictator has damned him forever in public opinion.
I should set out my stall from the start and say I remain strongly pro EU. I don’t see a 52/48 vote as definitive or closing off debate. I am indeed happy that Brexit is giving a boost to prospects of Scottish Independence, but it cannot be in Scotland’s long term interests to have an isolated, impoverished and xenophobic large neighbour, so I shall continue to argue that Brexit should not happen.
While Corbyn has taken an admirable stand against popular chauvinism, he plainly has no interest in trying to keep the UK in the EU, which is consistent with his long term scepticism. That is fair enough. But it means that the 48% who voted against leaving the EU, and are generally aghast that government is now moving to draw up lists of foreign workers and to get primary schools to check birth certificates, are feeling unrepresented. Blair and super-Blairite Jonathan Freedland have genuinely identified a political vacuum. Their folly lies in imagining that they and their chums might fill it.
Freedland’s disconnection from reality is nowhere more starkly revealed than in naming Nick Clegg as a “serious asset” in a pro-EU campaign. Outside the delusions of the Westminster bubble, Clegg is nearly hated as much as Blair. Clegg and friends took Charlie Kennedy’s large left wing party, and turned it into a small right wing party. It says a great deal that in considering leadership for a continued pro-EU campaign against xenophobia, the anti-Gay pipsqueak Farron is a complete irrelevance.
What Freedland does not understand is that it was hatred of his political bubble chums which caused Brexit in the first place. The official Remain campaign director was Jack Straw’s son Will. Peter Mandelson was Vice-President. The top-down campaign was devoid of popular enthusiasm with an almost total lack of popular engagement and community events. It continually paraded figures like Blair, Cameron, Osborne, Straw, Clegg, Kinnock and others, which gave ordinary people a chance to give those they rightly despise a political kick in the pants by voting against their will. Brexit has been caused by a justified hatred of the UK political class.
That those who caused the disaster see themselves as the answer to it is laughable. I remain hopeful that the English in particular will recover from the wave of jingoism which appears to have swept over them like a plague. But resistance must be organic and arise from the people themselves. I hope to see the emergence of a new, untainted and dynamic generation of young activists. My generation have bequeathed a terrible legacy.