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.
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