Tony Blair responds to populist movements across Europe

Tony Blair has announced he will launch a new institute for centre-ground politics next year. In the wake of insecurities in a post-Brexit era, the former Prime Minister’s campaign is aimed at tackling the global forces of right- and left-wing populism.

But he has insisted the non-profit organization will not directly oppose Brexit or promote the idea of a second referendum.

“And since all of these approaches basically represent the open-minded response to global problems, the salience of these new approaches depends on us having an answer to the new populism of left and right which exploits the anger and drives the world apart,” says Blair in the statement.

“This is not about my returning to the front line of politics… However, I care about my country and the world my children and grandchildren will grow up in; and want to play at least a small part in contributing to the debate about the future of both,” he adds.

 

Blair came into power after winning the general election in May 1997 with a landslide victory after four election defeats for Labour in a row. He is considered to be among the Labour PMs who fundamentally changed the party’s policies. Jennifer van Heerde-Hudson, Senior Lecturer in Political Behaviour at University College London, says:

“Blair was one of the politicians who thought about modernising the party, moving it to the center. Some of his reforms were for democratising his party and changing it from the Labour Party of the 1960s and 1970s which was unsuccessful. He was innovative in that way. His personality was fairly new in the British context.”

Hudson does not believe it will be easy for Blair to close the gap he has generated since he has stepped back from the public life. Yet, she is convinced that Britain can still embrace the idea of Blair returning as a key public figure. Hudson also says that his eloquence will contribute to the success of the campaign. “Blair is well-spoken, he uses his assets to engage with the public. There are fewer barriers between him and the society. His way of talking politics is very consumable and understandable,” says Hudson.

She believes that the former PM will try not to associate himself fully with the Labour Party while working on his campaign. Hudson suggests Blair will choose certain people strategically, because “he does not have a real champion behind himself; he has many detractors”.

Yet, it seems that Blair could face a new investigation over the Iraq War will not undermine the campaign’s success.

A group of MPs presented a motion calling for a new inquiry. It was tabled by the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman secretary, Alex Salmond. The idea for further investigations was backed by MPs from six other parties. Labour MPs helped defeat the call for parliamentary committees doing more on the topic. In total, 439 votes were against the motion and only 70 were in favour of further actions over Iraq War.

Hudson says that “it was not in the Labour Party’s interest to bring that inquiry. Even for SNP is not a top priority when Britain is now getting ready for Brexit.”

She also comments that the new policy unit has its place on the British political scene and there will be people supporting the ideas of the only Labour leader in history to ever win three elections.

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