His comeback will take the form of a new centre ground campaign. It is most welcomeby John McTernan / December 2, 2016 / Leave a comment
We need to talk about Tony. That’s not an imperative statement, just one of fact. Whenever Tony Blair re-enters the debate there is a breathless cycle of reporting, commentary, phone-ins and finally meta-commentary.
The latest example concerns his announcement that he will restructure his various organisations and enterprises. Put simply, Blair is moving his charitable organisations under one roof and gifting them the accumulated profit—many millions—of his commercial organisation, Tony Blair Associates. In addition, he is developing a new “pillar” of his not-for-profit work. It is worth quoting what he says about this. It is—in effect—a manifesto:
“This is the creation of a platform designed to build a new policy agenda for the centre ground… and allow a reasonable and evidence based discussion of the future which avoids the plague of social media-led exchanges of abuse.
“This platform will have a policy unit which will draw on the best ideas and practical solutions.”
It will be “a platform for engagement to inform and support the practising politician.”
One might ask why Tony Blair attracts so much attention when he has not been a frontline politician for nearly a decade. At times like these we see why—he fills a hole in British politics that no-one else does.
As Blair so pointedly, and poignantly, put it in a recent interview: “I think in Britain today, you’ve got millions of effectively politically homeless people.” He is not wrong. That, first and foremost, is what enrages and engages people. Blair puts his finger on it—nearly half the voters in the UK have no effective voice. Theresa May clings to the platitudinous observation that “Brexit means Brexit,” while Jeremy Corbyn celebrates the life of a murderous, oppressive and homophobic tyrant.
Until this week those millions were unrepresented politically. Now they are not. This is not because of Blair’s intent to set up his “platform,” but because voters have done what they do best—they used a by-election to say: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Zac Goldsmith self-indulgently resigned his seat in the House of Commons and subjected himself to the verdict of the voters, who concluded that “Brexit means Exit.” For Zac, anyway.