Tony Blair – Europe’s man in Britain?

Since the Brexit vote, the British people have been divided and anxious, wondering what awaits them in the post-EU future. The government has made countless attempts in trying to unite Britain prior to negotiations. It is hard to disagree with them – it is surely obvious to everyone that the UK must appear strong and committed in order to get the best deal from our European allies. Enter Tony Blair.

The New Labour movement is fascinating as it is impossible to deny their legacy. However, for individuals like Blair, Mandelson and David Miliband to publically state that the wrong outcome occurred in the referendum is slightly patronising. Not to mention the fact, it is it is further damaging their credibility, Blair since leaving office has been covered by the media greatly.  Whilst David Miliband is leading the International Rescue Committee in the States, moreover he remains in the news due to him not ruling out a return to British politics – a potential Corbyn replacement. However, the rest of New Labour has been nothing short of ghosts in the political world. Why? Simply because their opinions are not as important to the public as they used to be.

This is not to say that they are not intelligent men with valid opinions, on the contrary, all these men are highly educated on this issue. On the 17th February, Mr Blair spoke up against the government’s pleas of unity telling the remnants of the Remain campaign to “rise up against Brexit” and that the public has the “right to change their mind”[1]. He believes that the government are not in full control of the situation and are not “driving the bus, but being driven”. Labour, themselves were not free from criticism; as the former prime minister blamed the current leadership for being a main reason into why the Leave campaign won. In response to these accusations, one man emerged to face them – the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. A notable of British politics. In typical “Boris-fashion”, he said; “I respectfully say to Tony Blair, those who call on the British people to rise up against Brexit, I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaign.”[2] The foreign secretary also accused Mr Blair of “insulting the intelligence” of the British people. Overall, Blair’s involvement in this campaign and publically speaking on how the public “got it wrong” is not helping his case. If anything, his contribution to this issue has only made the Brexit case stronger.

Blair can be seen as a man who stands by his values and views therefore his involvement with the Open Britain campaign is not surprising. Blair with strong pro-European instincts is no stranger in declaring his love publically; “I certainly believe passionately that this country and its destiny lies in Europe.”[3] Therefore, Blair’s intervention on Brexit should have been expected and even respected. However, as satirical news reporter Jonathan Pie put it; “A week ago, Peter Mandelson rises from his coffin like Nosferatu”. This is where former senior politicians have gone wrong – they are claiming that they themselves will try to stop Brexit. This can be said of many ex-politicians – Mandelson, Major, Heseltine etc. While Alistair Campbell in recent weeks has tweeted regularly, that leaving the EU is going to be disastrous. David Miliband has said that the Labour party is “the weakest it has been in fifty years”[4] tarnishing the party he once so passionately loved.

There is a difference between protesting a result and refusing to accept it. The bill put towards the Lords last week, was just a sheet of paper that allows the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 therefore beginning the withdrawal process, which these former politicians have disagreed with.

The common theme amongst all these politicians is their concern for the country. However, when the country needs to be at its most united, they have worsened the situation. Whether Leave or Remain, the governments=’s message has been of unity. Once Britain enters the negotiations with the EU in a few weeks, the government would like the debate finished as to allow them to press on with negotiations.

Author Bio:

Kyle Scott Pirie is a student at the University of Nottingham studying for a bachelor’s degree in Politics and International Relations. Kyle has a strong passion for politics, which has seen him campaign in both the Scottish independence referendum and EU referendum. He has also featured on multiple BBC programmes and has lived a life that has taken him across eight different countries. Find him on Twitter: @Pirie_8

Please note: Views expressed are those of the author.

[1] http://www.open-britain.co.uk/extracts_from_tony_blair_s_open_britain_speech_on_europe

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/17/tony-blair-eu-brexit-mission-remainers-live/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/may/16/euro.eu

[4] http://news.sky.com/story/david-miliband-labour-at-its-weakest-for-50-years-under-corbyn-10780822