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25 November 2016updated 12 Oct 2023 10:41am

Forget the argument about New Labour. Tony Blair’s got a point on Brexit

Today's Morning Call.

By Stephen Bush

Today’s big news? Our interview with Tony Blair in this week’s New Statesman. Among the headlines: his belief that Britons can be convinced that the Brexit vote was a terrible mistake that needs to be reversed.

“Blair’s mission to stop Brexit” is the i’s splash. “Blair: Britain can stop its exit from the EU” is the Telegraph’s take. 

All of which, predictably, has triggered a debate about Blair and his record. For many, Blair holds a special responsibility for the state we’re in – including Graham Jones, the Labour MP for Hyndburn, who gives him both barrels over at the Staggers.

It’s true for those of us who are unhappy that Donald Trump is President and that Britain is leaving the European Union, we surely have to ask ourselves what it is that we believed or did – or perhaps, did not believe and did not do – that has led to our present discontents.

But the difficulty of blaming the distrust caused by the Iraq war or the disappointments of the Third Way is that on the other side of the Channel you have France, which opted out of both. Marine Le Pen will certainly outperform Ukip’s general election performance in the first round of French presidential race and may well outrun Brexit as far as popular support is concerned in the second round. 

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If we’re to explain the alarming rise of the far right across the world, we need to start by looking at the global commonalities. Among those: a willingness – or in the case of France, a legal requirement – to give the nativists a platform and a megaphone to boot in the press, a well-organised and well-funded network of new rightwing media platforms, opposition to migrants, the consequences of globalization in general and the global financial crisis in particular. 

Now yes, you can certainly lay some blame at Blair’s door as far as at least some of those are concerned. But perhaps instead of engaging in a discussion about how we got here, it might be a better idea to look at where we are. Today’s other big story concerns the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ chilling predictions of the coming decade, with wages to remain below 2008-levels for at least another five years. 

We know that the economic conditions can be the petrie dish for fascist politics. If Brexit goes well, of course, then the centre-right will feel the benefits and the Faragistes will be back in their box. But if it doesn’t, we might pause the row over Tony Blair and what’d we’d do differently if we could re-run 1997 to 2010 again to think about the fact that as far keeping our options open as far as Britain’s Brexit decision is concerned, he is 100 per cent correct.


Alain Juppé came out fighting against Francois Fillon in the final debate before voters pick which one of the two men will be tasked with keeping the centre-right’s end up in next year’s presidential elections. Juppé derided Fillon as Putin’s preferred candidate and accused him of “lacking credibility”. Anne-Sylvaine Chassany has the story in the FTwhile I profile Fillon in this week’s NS


Secure reading rooms will be laid on so MPs can be briefed about Britain’s Brexit negotiations, Patrick Wintour reveals in the Guardian


George Osborne earned more than £300,000 in a month delivering paid speeches, according to the register of members’ interests.


Declassified papers from Geoffrey Howe’s stint as Chancellor show the government warning that Brexit would have a “devastating effect” on the British economy. The FT’s Gavin Jackson has the story.


Martin Schulz is standing down as President of the European Parliament, and targeting a return to German electoral politics, where he will jostle with his fellow social democrats for the right to lead the SPD into an election where they will hope to displace Angela Merkel as Chancellor but will ultimately end up having to go into coalition with her again. Alex Barker and Duncan Robinson have an excellent profile of Schulz in today’s FT.


…is brought to you by the City of London. Their policy and resources chairman Mark Boleat writes on Brexit and the City here.


The proportion of under-25s who are “NEET” – not in education, employment or training – has risen slightly, from 11.5% to 11.7% in the latest ONS release. 


The behavior of Lowell Goddard, the former head of the child sex abuse inquiry, has been branded as “disgraceful” by the Home Affairs Select Committee. Committee chair Yvette Cooper has called for “urgent action” to revive the troubled inquiry. 


Donald Trump has been refusing to have regular intelligence briefings since he was elected President, receiving just two since the election, theWashington Post reveals. Incoming Presidents tend to opt for a daily brief. Elsewhere, the President-Elect has nominated Nikki Haley, South Carolina governor, as his Ambassador to the UN.


Caroline Crampton interviews Sarah Brown about her favourite podcasts. Yes, I’m talking about the wife of the former Prime Minister. 

I accidentally included Kate’s piece on dogging twice this week, so here is an extra link to make up for it: this superb Rachel Cooke essay on childlessness.


Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff on the backlash against the rightwing press

Reddit’s CEO edited comments on a Trump thread, and everyone should care, says Amelia

John Harris on the Brexit brigade

Like it or not, Tony Blair is giving a voice to the 48 per cent, says Ben Bradshaw

Adam Bienkov on the fake patriotism of the Farageists

This originally appeared in today’s Morning Call, your daily dose of analysis and everything you need to know about politics, in Westminster and beyond. It’s free, and you can subscribe here.

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