Tony Blair is on our side. Eek.

I’m not going to lie. I’m not Tony Blair’s biggest fan. In fact, there may have been a time when I rather naively described him as worse than Thatcher in some ways. You expect Tories to let down the poor and protect the rich. You don’t expect that from a Labour Prime Minister. And then there was Iraq.

Blair, though, has long been lapped in the governmental race to the bottom by the Brexiteer zealots intent on driving our country off a cliff.

Today, he has given a pretty forceful speech saying that we must all rise up against Brexit. 

He said:

Our challenge is to expose, relentlessly, what that cost is.

To show how this decision was based on imperfect knowledge, which will now become informed knowledge.

To calculate in ‘easy to understand’ ways how proceeding will cause real damage to the country and its citizens and to build support for finding a way out from the present rush over the cliff’s edge.

He knows more about foreign policy muck-ups and decisions based on imperfect knowledge than most people. You also have to think of probably his finest achievement as PM – the Good Friday Agreement – which could now be completely unravelled by Brexit as Nick Clegg pointed out the other day.

Here’s the thing, though. He’s right to agree with us on Brexit. And it’s not only him. Sir John Major agrees with us too.

What is particularly interesting is that he gave the speech to the Open Britain organisation, which has hitherto been way too timid on opposition to Brexit, opposed to a referendum on the deal and way too accepting of restrictions on freedom of movement for my liking. If they are going to start being a bit more radical, then that is to be welcomed

I think that the threat to our country and our children’s future is so great that we need to forget the enmities of the past and work with those who share our values now. Between them, Farron, Clegg, Blair and Major can persuade a lot of people to become active participants in our country’s future and not just let May and the Brexiteers-in-Chief get on with it. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party will not give the Government the scrutiny and opposition it needs, so it’s up to us and as many like minds as we can find.

The Liberal Democrats have been saying what Blair has been saying since the referendum. We have led the way on this and we still represent to the electorate the only anti-Brexit choice. In Scotland we are the only anti-Brexit, pro UK choice.

Blair said that Brexit changes the independence debate.

In addition to all this, the possibility of the break-up of the UK – narrowly avoided by the result of the Scottish referendum – is now back on the table but this time with a context much more credible for the independence case.

I am not sure how losing 40% of your market on top of 15% of your market does anything than make a catastrophic situation worse. However, if the referendum does come, those of us who want the UK to stick together will have to do a much better job than either the Better Together or the Stronger In campaign to capture hearts as well as minds. Theresa May’s Bargain Basement Brexit UK is not going to be an easy sell. In those desperate, grief-stricken hours after the referendum result, my position on independence changed from “no (insert expletive of choice here) way” to “I’ll think about it.” Nothing I have seen or heard since then has convinced me that it’s a good idea and I can’t see myself voting for it – but we are going to have to get out there and fight for every vote.

Tim Farron has welcomed Blair’s intervention but emphasised that those who agree with him should join the Lib Dems:

Tony Blair is right. The challenge now is to persuade people to change their mind – and the Liberal Democrats are the only party offering them a chance to have their voice heard again.

Blair’s speech shows how badly Corbyn’s Labour has failed as an Opposition.

Labour have waved the white flag and given Theresa May a blank cheque for a divisive, hard Brexit.

So if you agree with Tony, join the Liberal Democrats – the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government.

Willie Rennie said he was right on Brexit but wrong on independence:

Tony Blair is right about Europe but wrong about independence.

The Conservative’s hard Brexit is bad for Britain’s economy which is why the public need the final say on the deal.

But Tony Blair is wrong about independence. The case for independence is weaker, not stronger, now especially with the £15 billion black hole in the Scottish public finances that would hit our NHS and schools.

On this issue, Tony Blair and John Major are fellow travellers who still have a fair bit of sway. Blair’s mistakes of the past are not wiped out, but the crisis we face now is of such a magnitude that we need all hands on deck. If he can bring help persuade people to speak out, then that’s a good thing. We just have to hope that the effect is greater on the Government than when we all marched against Iraq.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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76 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Feb '17 - 11:26am

    Liberalism is about more than becoming a single issue pro-EU party, which Tim Farron risks turning the Lib Dems into.

    Regards

  • What is needed now is a new script for the EU. There would seem to be a great deal of disillusionment throughout Europe as to failings of of the EU. If the Remain side can agree on a new vision this may be a way all sided can perceive a change of heart as a victory. Put Art50 on hold and talk. This should have been the governments strategy from the off. The referendum was always phrased in terms of accept DC’s new deal or leave. If there is a new deal on the table then it is perfectly legitimate to ask the question again.

  • Whatever many think about Blair he’s one hell of an impressive talker. I know he’s a love him or hate him type of character, but he looks looks like a leader and people do listen to him. For me the remain side aren’t even making a decent fight of keeping us in the EU. If Blair fronts the campaign you never know, all might not be lost. The man’s a clever sod and the Lib Dems could do worse than stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

  • Simon McGrath 17th Feb '17 - 11:50am

    Did Blair ‘let down the poor’. ?
    I would have thought huge increases in health and education spending plus the minimum wage were rather good for them.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Feb '17 - 11:50am

    I’m afraid it was a disastrous mistake for Tim Farron to make a statement beginning “Tony Blair is right”.
    In his conference speech last year, Tim Farron said that he preferred Tony Blair’s “early work”. But expressing support for him in this way will be perceived as condoning the “later work”.
    Tim Farron just makes it worse by continuing “If you agree with Tony, join the Liberal Democrats”. Altogether a disastrously misguided statement.

  • When the history of the EU is written I suspect the conclusion will be that it was destroyed not by its enemies but by its friends.

  • @Simon McGrath – Health spending was increased by huge PFI loans that has benefitted banks and disadvantaged our NHS.

    And education similarly, with the addition of students being indebted for a large part of their lives.

    The minimum wage was no victory to the blue collar worker.

    This was a measure that set a low bar for every multinational to come down to; and even then, those low wages had to be bailed out by the taxpayer.

  • ” In Scotland we are the only anti-Brexit, pro EU choice.”

    Really? Isn’t this exactly the SNP position?

  • “This decision was based on imperfect knowledge.”
    Hmmmmmm. To be fair, he has form on those sorts of decision.

  • Alfie Finan 17th Feb '17 - 1:20pm

    Did you mean “the only anti-Brexit, pro UK choice”?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Feb '17 - 1:29pm

    It is a sad and salutary fact that when lair came along I was in his party , but now prefer Sir John ! I have barely changed politically but much has !

    I cannot loathe Blair at all. I can dislike decisions he has made and mistakes that are obvious. He is a Shakespearean figure in many ways. Prince Hal more than Falstaff. But an old Hal now , not a heroic one . Henry V he became . But the play had a different plot!

    He did help the poorer elements of post Thatcher Britain and achieved many good things. I cannot see other than that on those policies that were the decent ones . But despite in personal ways being the most articulate and able of his generation or many, he is so flawed and tainted in the eyes of many , I wonder if his contributions can be as valuable as their content sometimes is.

    And Nick Clegg who follows him as a runner up in the view of many and has much to offer also in ability , needs to be measured in response !

    It is something everybody in Brexit Britain could do well to be!

  • “In Scotland we are the only anti-Brexit, pro EU choice.”…….. Errrrrrrrr, I’m afraid that’s stretching the elastic somewhat and looking through the wrong end of the telescope. It’s not something the Greens or the SNP (who between them have a majority of seats at Holyrood) would agree with.

    As for that grinning multimillionaire Tony Blair, the man of Iraq who saddled the NHS with the deadly PFI virus (the NHS will have to pay a total of £1.26 billion for the privately built Edinburgh Royal Infirmary – and still not own it…… and the 17 Edinburgh schools falling down) – I’m afraid he’s the kiss of death for ant-Brexit.

  • @David and @David Raw: The SNP are not exactly a pro UK choice, now, are they? And they are hurtling towards abandoning support for the EU, too.

    WE are the only UK wide pro UK pro EU party.

  • Scotland: we seem stuck in a mire, sorry Caron. Caight between the same appearing stance as SNP over Europe and Labour and the Cons over the UK. I would suggest the Scottish Liberals need something that is very important to Scotland, but purely they’re own. Maybe they need to plough an Independant furrow, Devolution is old hat. They need to change tack somewhere with something otherwise it is same old, same old, which is an apparent turnoff.

  • nvelope2003 17th Feb '17 - 2:28pm

    theakes:
    Maybe independence within the UK ? If only Ireland could join in too and get rid of those borders.

  • @ Caron “In Scotland we are the only anti-Brexit, pro EU choice”.

    I’m afraid that’s what you said, Caron. No mention of UK. A Freudian slip ??????

    Time for a bit of nifty post hoc editing ??????

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Feb '17 - 3:50pm

    Tony Blair speaking out against Brexit is actually the surest way of making large sections of the “forty-eight percent” begin to feel that Brexit can’t be such a bad idea after all. Tim Farron, in his statement, unfortunately seems unaware of this.

  • Kishwer Falkner made some very useful comments on BBC News at the back end of Friday morning, pointing out problems with both the messenger and the message, particularly Blair’s unrealistic view of the timetable. Things are not going to be pain-free witin a couple of years.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Feb '17 - 5:41pm

    Caron, you claim “Blair has long been lapped in the governmental race to the bottom by the Brexiteer zealots”. You cannot seriously be suggesting that any of the likely harmful effects of Brexit, are in any way comparable to the terrible humanitarian tragedy of the Iraq war?

  • David Allen 17th Feb '17 - 6:38pm

    Sure, Blair is a toxic politician to very many people. But his message today is right.

    Tim Farron did well to acknowledge that simple fact. Far too many politicians, when asked if they agree with what someone from a different party said, will go to great lengths to avoid giving that party the slightest acknowledgement or credit. It just makes the speaker look petty-minded when that happens. Acknowledging that Blair is right, and that Ken Clarke is right, makes Tim look magnanimous and makes it clearer that the Remain cause won’t go away.

    Tim also did right, of course, to move swiftly on and explain why Remainers should abandon Labour and join the Lib Dems. 100% good response!

  • @Catherine Yes I am. Brexit ruins my child’s future and those of the whole next generation. It is an economic and social catastrophe that will blight and take lives.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Feb '17 - 8:50pm

    Well, I wasn’t saying Brexit wouldn’t have harmful effects, but more harmful than the Iraq war? The Iraq war blighted and destroyed countless lives. Are you seriously suggesting post Brexit Britain will be a worse place than post war Iraq?

  • @Caron @Catherine. Brexit damns the future of my children, grandchildren and friends. It is also likely to lead to lower economic growth and hence less resources for the NHS and so increased mortality. However there has to be a difference between the consequences of economic incompetence and the deliberate decision taken by Tony Blair to bomb Baghdad and invade Iraq resulting in the death of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Of course Theresa May voted for that and must take her share of responsibility but to date her government has not chosen evil at the same level as the last Labour government.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Feb '17 - 9:00pm

    Richard, I agree.
    Caron, I really am worried by your suggestion that the consequences of Brexit will be worse than those of the Iraq war. If you asked an Iraqi civilian who had lived through the war, whether they predicted that the effects of Brexit in Britain would be worse than their own experiences, I don’t think it is too difficult to guess their reply.

  • nick cotter 17th Feb '17 - 9:15pm

    I Agree with Tony (and that is a 1st) !!

    Nick Cotter

  • Tony Blair’s intervention is just one example of the many unexpected alliances these interesting times are leading to. Former Lib Dem press chief Mark Littlewood came out as pro-independence on the BBC last night. By putting principle and straight talking above self-interest, he no doubt destroyed any chance he had of a UK knighthood or peerage. Perhaps some of his free market ideas may not be my sort of thing but he is very welcome and shows the broad support that independence is gaining across the political spectrum.

    Tony Blair should still submit himself for trial in the Hague though.

  • Will we ever know whether Brexit has been a disaster?
    How will we know?
    There’s no parallel Europe in which we remain in the EU.

  • Al,

    Mark Littlewood is a prominent Brexiteer, he also believes that “The problem is not so much that the public sector is being run inefficiently, though this may be true in parts, but rather that the public sector is intrinsically inefficient. Whole swathes of activity need to be moved from the public to the private sector, rather than relying on state bureaucrats under the next government showing a level of productivity on a different qualitative level compared to that displayed in the last ten years.”

    http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2010/03/mark-littlewood.html

    So perhaps you should ask the question why is he in favour of Scottish Independence? Could it be that he believes that an Independent Scotland sans Barnett would have no choice but to privatise everything including the NHS. A veritable right winger’s dream.

    Now you will claim as do the left wing Brexiteers that that isn’t the sort of future your voting for, but as with Brexit that’s the future your likely to get. I’d advise you to watch how the Brexit divorce goes before trying a divorce of your own.

    P.S I believe Mr Littlewood long ago left the Lib Dems and I for one am rather glad about that.

  • I do have to disagree here with the idea that Tony Blair, on the whole, “let down the poor and protect[ed] the rich”. Whilst I fully accept that his government (by their own admittance at the time) did little to restrain the economic inequality unleashed by Thatcher, his (and Brown’s) social policies had the effect of reducing the number of children and pensioners in poverty by millions; all within the context of a market economy. With the caveat that economic inequality is something the Lib Dems should be clear about tackling, I tend to believe that that aspect of his domestic legacy is one of which Blair can be proud.

  • John Barrett 17th Feb '17 - 11:54pm

    It is no surprise that those on Lib-Dem voice who automatically support any utterance from the party leader are at it again. It was the same when Nick Clegg was leader and that unquestioning support continues with Tim as leader.

    However this latest admiration from Tim of Tony Blair and the justification offered really takes the biscuit.

    It is worth remembering that Tony Blair is currently less popular, and I take that to also be less believable, than Jeremy Corbyn.

    It is time for Tim to wake up, smell the coffee and realise that the future of our party will only be put at risk by those who support closer links to Blair.

  • @Caron – “I am not sure how losing 40% of your market on top of 15% of your market does anything than make a catastrophic situation worse.”

    Presumably an independent Scotland would seek (and should secure) EU membership, hence wouldn’t lose that 15% and would probably expand it as it secured (post-Brexit) some of the UK’s old market share within the EU.

    Either which way Scotland faces a tough choice. Stick with the UK and, post-Brexit, Scotland will lose some of that EU 15% and might increase its UK 40% share. Or stick with the EU/leave the UK and increase its EU share from 15% while losing some of its UK 40% share.

    Depending on what is decided it’s likely that in twenty years time those figures will have changed substantially with either Scotland becoming more focused on the U.K./less on the EU or, alternatively, much more focused on the EU/less on the UK.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Feb '17 - 1:23am

    @ John Barrett. You are entitled to your opinions, John, but you make some curious statements. How do you know that people generally supporting Tim Farron on LDV do so ‘unquestioningly’ and ‘without evidence’? Why do you write of Tim’s ‘latest admiration of Tony Blair’, as though Tim were admiring the man rather than what he is saying just now? And ‘the future of our party will only be put at risk by those who support closer links to Blair’ – who exactly is supposed to be ‘supporting closer links’?

    By contrast, I think Lorenzo Cherin and David Allen, as usual, are making sensible statments above, and that Scott Smith is right about the value of the social policies of the Blair government. On opposing Brexit because it will have bad results, on seeking to change minds to accept that opinion and give people the right to make another choice, Tony Blair is surely saying now what Tim and our party have been saying all along, and thus gives valuable publicity to our standpoint. I noticed in the BBC1 review of the papers tonight that the views of Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and the Lib Dems were indeed mentioned as relevant, though that was not the case with the early Sky review.

    But however many leading politicians accept this proposition, Labour’s Owen Smith being another, I think that it will be many months before the general public come to a sufficient change of heart about it. There is still much indignation about the supposed wish to ‘overturn the will of the people’ by opposing Brexit, which may perhaps even slightly affect our chances in the current by-elections. Only today a voter who delivers leaflets for Tim was complaining over the phone to me in the Copeland office about Tim’s opposition to Brexit. The facts on the ground will I expect gradually change minds not to be persuaded by our (and Blair’s) arguments.

  • I think I agree more with Caron than Simon McGrath and Lorenzo Cherin, The Labour government wasted the first two years. They didn’t return to running the economy to achieve full employment. In this sense they were a disappointment. However compared to a Conservative government then the Labour government was better.

    They didn’t build enough houses and they introduced Tax Credits and subsidized low wages rather than have a policy like the National Living Wage. A Conservative government would be an “E” but the Labour one was only a “D+”.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Feb '17 - 2:21am

    Catherine and Katharine

    I was a very enthusiastic supporter of Blair before he was even a party leader but was Shadow Home Secretary. No one in any party has ever as swiftly got to the moral substance of crime and its causes and the solutions. He is often traduced to the soundbites he and his spin doctors came forward with. It is daft. He did and does stand for many things not expedient or immoral or wrong in any way.

    I had become dissolusioned with the party politics as much as with his government and had already drifted away from Labour by Iraq. After that , two things , the Orange book, some of which I liked, all I welcomed as at least indicative of a party with a range of ideas which to me is not something I felt a strong point at times, and the stance of Charles Kennedy and Sir Ming , on the Iraq war, led me to join this party.

    It was and is refreshing that those two terrific men never got nasty in any way or personal on Blair. Both never even strongly criticised Blair’s sincerity , however the former pm, irritated and maddened us all in his pursuit of his moral rightness and still does with a sadder and older look in his eyes.

    I believe he does think , like others who have led democratic countries in wars, that it was just, because the tyrant was wretched, regardless of the pointlessness to many others with better claims to being correct.

    I have taken issue with Caron and she with me , on our right as a Liberal and democratic party , to express ourselves more robustly , but not in a personal or insulting way, on this site. Because we loathe that which is illiberal and undemocratic, we must be able to say things strongly.

    However, though I disagree with and do not share Carons fears to the extent she does, or our former prime minister , I welcome the fairness of all including our party leader in listening to Blair . Read Labourlist on this and much and you can see why I think we should not fear being more robust, and why we should be pleased we are in this party even as it drives many of us mad sometimes. There you find calls for the man who , unlike Churchill , despite Dresden, unlike Kissinger, despite, Cambodia, is loathed as a war criminal and cries for him to be in prison.

    War is horrible . Does it mean all who have led countries to it, are?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Feb '17 - 6:37am

    Lorenzo, I do understand what you say about Tony Blair. I agree with Tim Farron’s previous remarks, in his Conference Speech last year, about preferring Tony Blair’s “early work”. Blair did achieve many good things in his early years as Prime Minister. But unfortunately his terrible decision to go to war in Iraq means that, on balance, he did more harm than Margaret Thatcher.
    I do accept that Blair probably believed that war against Iraq would be just, because of the evils of Saddam Hussein’s regime. But of course regime change was not Blair’s stated aim in entering the war. The reason he gave – the “weapons of mass destruction – turned out to be false, though perhaps Blair genuinely believed the weapons to exist. At the very least, Blair was guilty of a terrible error of judgement, which led to countless deaths and untold suffering. Many do believe Blair to be a war criminal. I’m not sure that I would go as far as to say that. He is obviously not a war criminal in the same sense as a Nazi war criminal. But it does seem that the Iraq war was probably “illegal”, according to generally accepted principles about the circumstances in which war may be justified.
    I’m sorry if the comments I made yesterday seemed too much like a personal attack on Tony Blair. That wasn’t my intention. I was just shocked that Tim Farron had made such a serious error of judgement as to appear to praise Tony Blair, and to make remarks that might be interpreted as meaning that Lib Dems were similar in outlook to Tony Blair in general. Of course it is true that agreeing with someone on one issue does not necessarily mean that one admires them, or agrees with them on other issues. But Tim Farron should have chosen his words much more carefully. I’m afraid if the Lib Dems are perceived as supporting and admiring Tony Blair, this could potentially do as much harm to the party as the coalition did.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Feb '17 - 7:18am

    Caron, Yesterday I asked “You cannot seriously be suggesting that any of the likely harmful effects of Brexit, are in any way comparable to the terrible humanitarian tragedy of the Iraq war?”, and you replied “Yes I am”. I must admit I am still feeling shocked by this reply.
    Of course I understand your very real fears about the negative effects Brexit may have on your family’s future. But do you really believe your fears to be equal to the fears of an Iraqi family during the war? Do you seriously believe that Brexit Britain will be equivalent to living in a war zone?
    The Iraq war caused countless thousands of deaths (the exact figure is still not known), and suffering that is hard for us to comprehend.
    Don’t you realise how fortunate we are, if the worst thing we have to fear, is not belonging to the EU? I’m not denying that there are genuine reasons to be anxious about Brexit. But to suggest that Brexit would be in any way comparable to the Iraq war…words do rather fail me. Surely you can see that your remark seems like an insult to the thousands whose lives were destroyed or blighted by the war?

  • Catherine – thank goodness you remain determined in challenging any suggestion that ‘Brexit will be worse than the Iraq war’. As for ‘Messiah’ Blair’s modern call to arms – very sad the Lib Dems are prepared to align the party with such a toxic political figure.

  • Arnold Kiel 18th Feb '17 - 8:44am

    Don’t mention the war.

    Anyone in his/her right mind on this site should be thrilled that the British politician with by far the strongest leadership and communication qualities of them all is trying to lead the way back to sanity. Just read the transcript again, if you can’t stand the man’s face or voice. He is 100% spot on, and every word he has said cannot be amplified enough.

    I agree with everybody who disagrees with the Iraq war, but destroying the effect of the message by talking down the messenger means advancing brexit at any cost.

    Brexit is likely to cost less lives and livelihoods than the Iraq war, but shouldn’t LibDems aim for none at all? The key difference between these two tragedies (which I shall refrain from comparing) is that the one in the making is still reversible.

  • John Barrett 18th Feb '17 - 9:36am

    Katharine Pindar – “How do you know that people generally supporting Tim Farron on LDV do so ‘unquestioningly’ and ‘without evidence’?”

    Quite often the leader’s press release is reported word for word along with supporting comments in such glowing terms on LDV, it is then abundantly clear that when I have read the comments on the item from members, that in many cases is shows clearly the original enthusiasm is far away from the wider view of those who then comment on Lib-Dem Voice. I accept that comments on Lib-Dem Voice do not accurately represent the membership or the wider support for the party, but it is probably one of the best ways of finding what those views are. There are many examples of the above if you care to look back over months or years on LDV.

    Often press releases are put out in haste to catch the current news cycle and sometimes without as much consideration as there might otherwise have been. Often the range of comments show that some more consideration beforehand would have resulted in an improved party position or statement, as once the leader has spoken, loyalty then dictates that many will automatically back him.

    Katharine, You also ask, “Why do you write of Tim’s ‘latest admiration of Tony Blair’, who exactly is supposed to be ‘supporting closer links’?

    Tim said, “So if you agree with Tony, join the Liberal Democrats.”

    Using Tony Blair as a reason to join the party certainly looks like he is asking those who agree or admire Tony to form closer links, so it might already be the case.

  • John Barrett 18th Feb '17 - 10:18am

    Hi Simon – It was a YouGov poll which showed that if Jeremy Corbyn led the party into the next election Labour support would be around 21%. It then asked the same supporters what level of support there would be with Tony Blair was leader and it dropped to15%.

    The online quote (which might be fake news!) is as follows

    ““YouGov research conducted in August found that, at that time, switching the leadership of the Labour party from Jeremy Corbyn to Tony Blair would bring Labour voting intention down from 21% to just 15%.”

    I appreciate that many polls have been wrong in recent years, so who knows what will actually happen in a few years time?

    One thing I am sure of, is that if Tony Blair was to be the leader of the Labour Party at the next election, the Lib-Dem campaign against him, based on his record as Prime Minister would be unrelenting and probably vitriolic at times.

    I personally would rather we kept our distance from him and his comments. Many questionable people has made comments we might agree with…..even Donald Trump!

  • Christopher Haigh 18th Feb '17 - 10:18am

    @Pat. Brexit could be worse than the Iraq situation if it leads to the break up of the EU, leaving squabbling states and the potential for further European warfare. Blair seemed convinced he was acting for the good to encourage democratic government in the Middle East. This may have been a false hope but please give him a break.

  • @Catherine Crosland I hear what you are saying but I stand by my original comment. The wider consequences of Brexit, including what may happen across Europe, could lead to a fracturing of the peace which we have enjoyed for 7 decades.

    It is the most worrying time for our continent in my lifetime. The Iraq war was a catastrophe that could have been avoided. So is Brexit – and we have a chance to get out of that one before any real damage is done. We should take it.

  • @ Caron @ Catherine Crosland

    I agree with Caron that the consequences of Brexit might in the long run be worse than the consequences of the invasion of Iraq – although it is entirely possible that Brexit is one of the consequences of the invasion of Iraq. [Consider to what extent the Brexit vote reflected first disillusion with the political elite stemming from such roots as their deceit and incompetence over Iraq and secondly anxiety over the refugees entering Europe because the refugees own countries had been destabilised as a result of the Iraq war.] However for me the argument that Blair is worse than May rests not on Blair failing to forsee the distant consequences of his invasion but rather that knowing that the invasion would inevitably lead to the loss of many innocent lives he pressed ahead even when the UN weapons inspectors were asking for more time to complete their inspection. It is his moral failings rather than his failure to predict the distant future that place him outside civilised society.

  • Robert Pinsker 18th Feb '17 - 12:52pm

    I agree with Malcolm and others, the problem all along has been the lack of unambiguous high-profile support for the EU. I don’t want to hear any more about what’s wrong with the EU, we can let the other side do that. We need to find a way to stop the torrent of Brexitism in the media. Tony Blair is a good start to that, though it would help if when he is reported on the news, there was at least one figure giving him public support and not just Boris and Farage rubbishing him. What we need next is someone young and high profile to say the same thing and emphasise the point that Brexit is an oldie’s backlash.

  • Peter Martin 18th Feb '17 - 1:10pm

    If Lib Dems, (and their new recruit?) are so keen on the EU why not look upon the Brexit vote as a new opportunity rather than a problem?

    If things go as badly as we are told then the UK can re-apply for membership. I’m sure we will be accepted. Next time though, we’d have to be in all the way. Full commitment to the rules of the SGP will be a requirement as we ready our economy to be part of the eurozone. No more special treatment. No more opt outs.

    What’s the problem? If we want to be a member of the club isn’t it better to be in all the way than only part of the way?

  • Caron, I would hope that if you have even a limited capacity for self reflection that one day you will look back on your Brexit being worse than the Iraq war and cringe. There is anger and disappointment and then there is what you said.

    It is a shame that you are quite so fearful and panicked, I don’t think even Tim has quite your level of fear, in my opinion equating Brexit with the war demonstrates an astounding lack of understanding as to what happened, and still is happening in Iraq.

    Have a little hope and confidence in peoples abilities to cope with change! you may find that your children are more resilient than you realise, my own 16 year old would have voted to stay but is no huge idealistic fan of the E.U. and certainly is very glad that he is not 16 years old and living in Greece or Spain, that would be quite frightening and a little depressing.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Feb '17 - 2:15pm

    Caron, it seems that in order to justify your claim that Brexit is as bad as the Iraq war, you are suggesting the very worst case scenario – you actually seem to be arguing that Brexit could lead to World War Three. But when Boris Johnson appeared to be claiming that Remain had claimed that Brexit would lead to World War Three, it was indignantly pointed out that of course Remain had never claimed any such thing. Does anyone really believe that it is the EU alone that has kept the peace for seventy years?
    You say that this is the most worrying time for our continent in your lifetime. Do you seriously believe that this is more worrying than the time when Europe was divided by a wall, and the cold war was very much still on, and when nuclear war seemed a far greater danger than it does now?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Feb '17 - 2:17pm

    Catherine

    You express your views so well. I believe that Blair is not any kind of a criminal even though I was staunchly against the war he supported . That does not mean I do not criticise him, I do more than many who hate him, but in a measured and constructive way, and certainly with no hate whatsoever because I believe him to not be a bad man even though he has done things which turned out to be bad. I criticise him more for his much too frequent enthusiasm for profitable consultancy and money making , thankfully now stopped.

    I was uncredulous at Caron’s comments in their level of fear and anger at Brexit , until today where she makes the point about the peace of the post war era, and I understand her on that even though I am nearer the view of Tynan in my own view of it. I voted remain , I do not believe in Brexit, yet it is not something to fear to the extent many are , because the situation is fluid. The so very important point Blair made was the EU can and must reform. Noises off from Verhofstadt are not encouraging. The federalists are not going to win . There is an alternative , but few are saying it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Feb '17 - 2:18pm

    Incredulous I said uncredulous !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Feb '17 - 2:28pm

    Pat, thank you. And I am very pleased to see that you have, after all, decided to continue on Lib Dem Voice 🙂

  • Tony Dawson 18th Feb '17 - 2:33pm

    @John Barrett:
    “…. this latest admiration from Tim of Tony Blair and the justification offered really takes the biscuit. It is worth remembering that Tony Blair is currently less popular, and I take that to also be less believable, than Jeremy Corbyn.

    It is time for Tim to wake up, smell the coffee and realise that the future of our party will only be put at risk by those who support closer links to Blair.”

    John, as one of the few marchers who the Lib Dem ‘internal powers’ finally allowed to organise and join the march against the Iraq war, I am no fan of Toy Blair’s last years (which is what will be his legacy and what sticks with most people/voters).
    So. Tim Farron’s quoting of Tony Blair’s recent arguments as being a reason to support and join the Lib Dems is a risky route which may backfire. But please, people, in your dissection of Tim Farron’s works, remember reality. The last election saw the culmination of five years under which the Lib Dems fell to fourth place in both seats and support levels (to different parties, arguably placing us fifth) across the country. Tim’s biggest battle remains that of gaining any media coverage for our Party’s existence at all. The UK media largely still (especially the ones that millions of people listen to and read) do not consider us as being particularly relevant if they even know who we are. Tony Blair’s speech was instant headline news. Tim got a share of that for the Lib Dems which is a share much bigger than zero. I personally believe he could have pitched the same basic ‘way into the story’ slightly better. So? No one is perfect, least of all me.

  • This is a tricky one. Blair’s words on this are welcome and we badly need more high-profile public figures to make the case which he articulates so well.
    And yet, and yet…
    I find it hard to reconcile this with my views on a man who took the country to war on what was at best a flawed prospectus and at worst false pretences. And who appears to have spent the years since he left power in the relentless pursuit of self-enrichment rather than rehabilitation. I suspect others will harbour similar reservations and that Tony is perhaps irredeemably damaged goods.
    But who else, beyond Tim and the LibDems, and good old Ken Clarke, is able and willing to take up the challenge and provide some positive and articulate leadership? It really isn’t too late to persuade people of the merits of our case, but time is running.

  • Andy Coleby 18th Feb '17 - 4:26pm

    Please please can Liberal Democrats avoid Tory Blairaq – he is as toxic as Chernobyl was.
    The blood of over 500, 000 innocent Iraqi’s is on his hands.
    I really wish he would just concentrate on making millions more and buying a dozen more houses.
    He is a failed Labour politician, not by any stretch of the imagination a big or small “L” liberal.

  • Andrew Tampion 18th Feb '17 - 4:56pm

    First Mr Blair’s speech seems to be largely a rehash of what he said on the 29th of October in The European.
    Second it seems to me that Mr Blair and also Tim Farron and others are putting the cart before the horse. What is required if you want to stay in the EU is to make the positive case for staying in the EU including what reforms you want to see then if and when there is a change in the public mood in favour of remain arguing for a re-vote. By way of illustration if freedom of movement is sacrosanct then possibly some form of solidarity payment to countries experiencing high net immigration to help pay for the required inferstructure would be in order.
    Third and going off topic I think that all the talk of the 27 seeking to punish the UK for exercising a treaty right is deeply unhelpful. Why would anyone want to be a member of a club whose immediate reaction to a member who wanted to leave was to punish them for doing so. Put another way if the 27 feel that the best way of responding to the risk of other countries wanting to follow the UK’s example and leaving is to punish the UK s rather than trying to ma ke membership more attractive why would anyone want to stay?

  • Andrew McCaig 18th Feb '17 - 5:19pm

    Andrew Tampion,

    Could you please supply some quotes where leaders of the 27 countries have said they want to “punish” Britain for leaving??

    I have of course seen several examples of EU leaders saying “don’t expect to cherry pick bits of the single market without paying the entry fee”. That is not punishment, particularly since it is exactly what they said during the referendum campaign.

    This “punishing” is all Tory propaganda so Theresa May can blame her own failings and idiocies on the EU (as the Tories and their fellow travellers in the Press have done for the last 40 years). Boris Johnson even went on about “punishment beatings”

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Feb '17 - 1:38am

    After the shameful surrender of the House of Commons to agree to pass Article 50 on Mrs May’s terms, our case for a possible reconsideration needs all the help we can get. I agree with Tony Dawson’s sensible approach above, but I also think Andrew Tampion is right in saying we need to specify what reforms we would like in this EU we hope to stay in. I have argued that we need a study group with our Liberal partners abroad to consider that. but I also note the upheavals going on or likely to go on in the other states, which will require I suppose a flexible (though not unprincipled) approach to any proposals. (The question of free movement of workers in the EU was raised in the bit of Radio 4’s Any Questions I managed to hear, in the car radio, on a break from delivering our stuff in Whitehaven.)

    John Barrett, it isn’t worth a long argument, but I would point out that the fact that many contributors to LDV do show some scepticism about Tim Farron’s pronouncements doesn’t prove that others of us who accept them have done so ‘unquestioningly’ and ‘without evidence’. We may well have considered them and perhaps have some reservations which don’t prevent a broad acceptance. I suppose there is the example here – of people not necessarily liking Tim’s exact wordage, but agreeing with the substance. Oh, and by the way, I heard that Nick Clegg, our Brexit spokesperson, had agreed with everything Tony Blair said. Incidentally again, Mr Blair showed a sad lack of consideration for the Labour candidates in the current by-elections in speaking out now, but I can’t be too regretful about that!

  • @ Andrew Tampion 4.56pm
    “What is required if you want to stay in the EU is to make the positive case for staying in the EU including what reforms you want to see then if and when there is a change in the public mood in favour of remain arguing for a re-vote”

    Indeed – this is exactly what needs to happen.
    People are simply not going to be railroaded by a fear of what might happen – we’ve tried that ……… remember?

  • TB supports the coalition of the willing. He as evidence that May has accumulated Weapons of Mass Brexit that can be unleashed within 45 minutes. And believe me he knows a thing or two about unleashing things based on imperfect knowledge.

  • Andrew Tampion 19th Feb '17 - 7:33am

    Andrew McCaig 5.19pm
    How about these
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/25/uk-should-be-punished-if-it-leaves-european-union-to-deter-other-exits
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/07/uk-must-pay-price-for-brexit-says-francois-hollande
    Also Sir Ivan Rogers has said that the EU will seek between 40 and 60 billion euros as a “divorce” settlement. There is no conceivable way that anything like that amount can be a fair settlement.

    If you would care to engage with my second point I would be interested to hear your views

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Feb '17 - 11:10am

    Katharine Pindar, if we agree that the EU needs many reforms, can we really be justified in putting the case to stay, as we have no guarantee, or even any reason to believe there is any real likelihood, of any of the reforms we might wish for actually being carried out?

  • @catherine Jane crosland. Yes. And I lived through that. It’s horrifying that this country is in the process of throwing away the one thing that has led to peace, security and prosperity.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Feb '17 - 3:31pm

    Caron, Thank you for your reply. I mentioned “the time when Europe was divided by a wall…”, in reply to your claim that today is the most worrying time for our continent in your lifetime. Surely the time I mentioned was the most worrying time for our continent in your lifetime? The fact that there is no longer a Berlin Wall is nothing to do with the EU, and the fact that the danger of nuclear war has receded (though not disappeared) does not really have much to do with the EU either. That is not to say that the EU does not help to maintain peaceful and friendly relationships between European countries, but it really is misleading to suggest that the EU has been the only thing preventing war.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Feb '17 - 4:22pm

    Catherine

    When the wall came a tumbing down, my great cultural, and liberal, hero, Leonard Bernstein conducted the Ode to Joy symphony in Berlin the day it came down: He substituted the word joy, in one of the verses , for , freedom!

    In Bernsteins own words :

    A Liberal is a man or a woman or a child , who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night and a bright, infinite future .

    One of the best and in common with much of that great mans work, beautiful quotes for being a Liberal , personally and politically.

    I understand where Caron is on this, the Beethoven of course became the anthem of the EU, but I agree with you Caron on much of this, ad Bernstein on practically everything !

    The reforms should have been to loosen up and liberalise and democratise the EU in a direction more like a commonwealth of nation states, not a federation of encumbered ones !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Feb '17 - 4:25pm

    Should be Caron and Catherine , as I agree with you both in different ways ! Caron not a bit on the fear but in the sentiment and feeling for a good idea , Catherine on the practicality and lack of fear ! Think Bernstein think Liberal ! Look forward !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Feb '17 - 4:37pm

    Lorenzo, Thank you for your reply, and for mentioning that wonderful story, and the beautiful quote 🙂

  • @ Martin
    “The origins of the EU are founded in the vision of creating a structure in which neighbouring nations share problems, enjoy a free flow of ideas, trade and people within the context of which armed conflict is unthinkable.”

    Fair enough.

    However, surely then there is a duty on the members to communicate this vision clearly, be seen to live it, enact it fairly, show flexibility when required to hold it together and ensure member states populations are on board such that when a difficult moment comes along……………..

    Maybe the channels of communication have broken down or were never established?

    However, going forward, if a clear vision which is seen to be fair to all cannot be communicated with clarity and passion to young and old alike, the consequences would seem to be clear.

    Not sure how or where the responsibility for the education and communication lies.

    But it certainly has not and is not happening.

  • ……………………and of course if we accept the passionate certainty of some here arguing that war in Europe is virtually inevitable if we leave, then why did the very demographic who (in your own words Martin “understand this implicitly”), vote to leave in the greatest numbers.

    They of all of us should surely have the greatest memories and cause for concern?

    The vision has to be more than this to inspire, motivate (or even to scare apparently)?

  • Umm – Interesting and food for thought.

    Maybe we have all become complacent or maybe are just overreacting? Time will tell I guess.

    Some may say that it’s just the natural swing of civilisations and power from East to West and now back again over time. After all the East ruled for centuries.

    A new ‘Ming Dynasty” appears to be on the rise. Very “Lord of the Rings’ some may say.

    We’ll see if the West can get it’s act together in time to retain some of its influence and power in the world.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Feb '17 - 12:25am

    Mike S. I can’t see ‘the West’ ‘getting its act together’ to retain power and influence, Mike, while President Trump is here to disunite us. Martin is surely right that ‘ the less united, the less significant Europe will be’, and at the very time that Europe needs to pull together to face the new uncertainties, Britain is choosing to pull out. It’s some small comfort that one can’t see a united ‘East’ either – Russia and China have very different aims, and China at least has never been aggressive.

    Lorenzo, that is such a helpful definition, thank you, of how we may want the EU to develop – ‘to loosen up and liberalise and democratise’ so as to be more like a commonwealth of nations than a federal state. Exactly; and, Catherine, I have hope that it will develop like this, because of its being in such a fluid state now.
    Lorenzo, I was interested too in your Bernstein-derived definition of ‘a Liberal’. which seems to be that s/he believes in progress. I do myself, but I wondered whether it might be possible to be a pessimistic Liberal, not somebody worried as most of us are at present about Brexit and Trump, but someone who tends to see the glass half empty rather than half full. Anyway, as Catherine said, thank you for the lovely images. I have participated in singing Ode to Joy, and as a European am glad of its glorious words as well as music. I need to think beyond the Copeland by-election sometimes!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Feb '17 - 3:22am

    Katharine

    Woke and came on here to find your lovely comments, thanks.

    I do think the EU could be reform oriented but has not been, except bu the ever closer union brigade ! What devolution was meant to achieve is possible in a grouping across borders as well as within them, but as we see the devolution in our country lead to greater fracture for independence for years called more enthusiastically or loudly, the EU cry is going that way too, loudest voices the most sceptical, or strong minority but articulate federalists like our ALDE leader who is also , not my favourite person on reform of the EU, though I like him otherwise !

    On “Lenny ” as they called him and do yet, the definition is in the mode or consistent with the way he was , a very forward looking man, and very positive even in his own personal despair and demons, particularly in his private life, but even political too, he was on the security services watch list for years because he was a genuine centre left enthusiast, though if you see what he believed in he was actually a humanitarian per se and that’s commie to 1950s 60s State in US ! He was a friend of President Kennedy to whom he dedicated his Mass, after the loss of the president.

    We need optimistic definitions and the rest to follow thus !

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