He is political marmite. I mean, all politicians are to some extent, but the tide against Tony Blair is angry, strong and emotional.
Leader of the Labour Party (1994 – 2007) and Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1997 till his resignation in 2007. He was a supporter of the Free Market and is famous for many, many things. From removing the all-important “Clause 4” from the Labour constitution and rebranding the party to New Labour, to deciding to build the pointless monstrosity that was the Millennium Dome (without the backing of Cabinet). His positive attitude towards the free-market raised a few eyebrows, and his informal approach (“call me Tony”) to interviews raised the other one.
But his most controversial and negative association is the decision to invade Iraq alongside President George W.Bush in 2003, sparking the Iraq War. In 2007 he resigned, handing over the PM ship to Gordon Brown in favour of appointment as Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East (which sounds made up).
And then, he went pretty quiet. Probably keeping a low profile – a lot of people didn’t like him by the end of his premiership, and they liked Brown even less. I disliked Brown and I would have been about 12 when he became PM. Anyway, Blair has been relatively under the radar. He is hugely unpopular, which is funny considering he was hugely popular back in the early days of his premiership.
Until recently. He had always been a supporter of the EU and international trade links, especially with the US. And after the 2016 vote to leave the EU, he was calling for a second referendum, or a general election, or something to protect the 16 million Britons voters who wanted to remain.
Recently, he stood up in front of a Pro-EU conference and announced that the British people voted to leave the EU due to “imperfect knowledge” and calling for people to “rise up”. Unsurprisingly, Brexit supporters have called him arrogant (Ian Duncan-Smith), I think Farage basically called him a “has been”.
But forgetting all the political ya-yas being grumbled over posh tables, I want to know how, and when, it became Tony Blair who was standing up in opposition to the government, and not the actual Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. It was a risky move! In attempting to galvanise the remain campaigners into a coherent and useful force, using Blair may have turned a few people away.
Many people disagree with the decisions Blair made over Iraq and Afghanistan, and many people have lost loved ones in the conflict that he started. And in the days following the speech he made, I have seen all manner of Remainers torn between agreeing with what he said and wanting to disagree because of who it is who said them. I have questioned why he decided to come out of the woodwork now, and whether he sees the risk as a last ditch attempt to sort this fiasco out.
Mr Duncan Smith (amusing as always) likened Blair to a Shaun of the Dead scene, and saying he was “completely out of touch” with the everyday people… as if IDS knows anything about real people. Nor does Farage.
Thing is, we do need to do something, to make this Brexit fiasco work for as many people as possible. Using Tony Blair could have been a stroke of genius – every single newspaper took up the story, circulating the message even if they were denouncing it. So now, the message is out there, and other people can take up the challenge and stand united against the Hard Brexit government is planning. Tony Blair got the movement publicity and maybe now he should step back and let other people take up the rope to avoid the negative connotations associated with his name.
Tony Blair has taken up the fight and given it publicity, but at what cost?