I have never hidden the fact that I quit the Labour Party because of the invasion of Iraq. It has effectively ruined Tony Blair’s legacy and in many ways deserves to. Iraq was an horrendous error, more of timing than anything else, but that’s for another day. Tony Blair, who led us into the conflict riding on the coat tails of George W Bush, has paid a serious price in terms of his legacy but I have grown tired of the non stop dissing of his personality and record. And today, he once again talked great sense, this time over Brexit.
Without rehashing all the Brexit arguments yet again, I was just pleased to hear someone who was able to articulate a case as to why Brexit should be avoided. None of the threats and scaremongering from the likes of discredited politicians like Cameron and Osborne, which ruined last year’s remain campaign, but clear, concise facts. We can go on about Iraq forever, and I suspect Blair will have to go on listening to people going on about it forever, but here was the master at work. And it was not me who called him the master: it was Cameron and Osborne.
It was as if Blair was the leader of the opposition, as he was before the epic election of 1997 when Labour swept to power and it was powerful because the leader of the opposition we currently have is no such thing. An opposition leader is not just there to oppose the government of the day – although there is plenty enough to oppose with this government – but it is to offer a clear, coherent alternative. Blair, for example, has pointed out the grave threats Brexit faces to our country, exposed the lies and hypocrites, Boris Johnson high among them, and said there would, if we wanted it, be another way.
Naturally, the far right and far left come out to play when Blair says anything because they know that to many his name is toxic, but there’s another reason. Tony Blair bestrode the centre ground of politics like a colossus for the best part of a decade and that doesn’t even include the years in opposition turning Labour from an electoral basket case to a party of government. The far right of May, Ukip and he Brexiters in general are as fearful of centre ground politics as the hard left purists like Corbyn and his Stalinist pals, the remnants of the discredited Bennites and the other 57 varieties of Trotskyism. They are fearful because it works.
Under New Labour, the country was far more united than it is now and Britain was a better place to live. It was not perfect but Blair built a rainbow coalition from most social groups that worked. And, with a decade of prime ministerial knowledge and experience, few politicians understand Europe better than Blair.
No longer am I going to offer my support for Blair with qualifications about Iraq, or anything else because, sooner or later back in the 2000s, the world would have had to deal with Saddam. It was not if but when. We will not go back to New Labour, sadly, but we have gone back to old Labour and what a disaster that has been, lurching back to the 1980s where Labour talked to itself and Margaret Thatcher did what the hell she liked. I would have him back as Labour leader in a heartbeat. In a world of political pygmies, he remains a giant.
Blair will never return to centre stage in our polities because of what happened with Iraq but in what remains of a free country, it is right that he is able to state an alternative view to the chaotic hard Brexit Theresa May, with the full support of Jeremy Corbyn’s shambolic Labour Party, will present us with. The extremes who have their own hardline reasons for taking us out of Europe represent 52% of the electorate so Blair has a fair sized audience to address.
In a grown up democracy, we should allow Blair the courtesy of putting forward an alternative point of view, especially when it is so articulate and coherent. Given that we now know that the only reason we are leaving the EU is because of migration, it’s important that we all know the financial calamity Brexit all bring. I happen to agree with him and I’m buggered if I am going to be silenced.