Look, if no one says it, I will: Tony Blair is right. Not that it counts for anything: if the past year has taught me – an Italian living in the UK – anything, it is that the most vocal Brexiteers hate being contradicted by foreigners, particularly if said foreigners dare be relatively educated and liberal. But while it may at first be entertaining to see commentators losing their temper over Blair’s remarks, after a while – and a dozen articles that look like copies of each other – it stops being funny and it start looking like a nation-wide paranoia. And maybe I only notice that from my foreign liberal standpoint.
“Delusional”, “hypocritical”, “failed” – these are a few of the epithets that I have seen repeated over and over again in relation to Blair’s speech on Friday and presumed return to the political scene. I have seen much fewer attacks on the actual points that Blair raised. Why? Because he is right. And everyone in this country seems to hate it when Tony Blair is right.
Worse still, Blair cited accurate migration figures, called out the Brexit campaign for candidly admitting to lies, presented verified information on the impact of EU laws on Britain, and, in general, spelled out the objective truth: the UK government, enslaved to populism, is leading this country to a disastrous crash.
But that, of course, only made it worse. In this “post-truth” world, any claim to objective truth only serves to enrage, especially if it comes from the most hated man in British politics. But it is delusional of all those who have criticised Blair not to at least consider the message rather than the messenger. If it’s true that – despite Brexit – the British are still that open-minded, pragmatic people, as many Brexit supporters claim they are, why wouldn’t they listen?
What’s more, refusing to engage with Blair’s claims just because they come from Blair is not just childish – it is harmful. Free from any opposition worthy of the name, the government is left to pursue its one-policy agenda virtually unchecked. It should only come as good news that someone who has distinctively more competence in challenging the government than anyone else currently in the House of Commons has stepped forward to take on the role left virtually vacant by the official “opposition”.
In just one speech, Blair has done more than anyone else since the Referendum to advance the cause of the 48% (and more). More than the Prime Minister, despite her (sadly non-credible) claim that she would also represent the interests of Remainers in Brussels. More than those who claim that Brexit will be a success, based on nothing but speculative rhetoric and the fact that the economy hasn’t collapsed yet. (To those in the latter group, let me remind you that Britain is in all effect still part of the EU, and is enjoying the benefits of free trade with a devalued currency, so the fact that the economy hasn’t yet gone of a cliff-edge is no reason to relax.)
Stubborn Brexiteers will of course never admit that Blair is right. But at least, they could practice the same open-mindedness they preach, stop insulting the man for his history, and start listening to what he has to say. That is, they are not afraid to burst their own comfortable bubble.