Tony Blair returned to the spotlight last week, with a speech urging remain supporters to “rise up” and fight for a second referendum. Though Blair acknowledged that the public had indeed voted to leave, he noted they did so without knowledge of the Brexit terms.
From what we’ve heard in recent weeks, a hard Brexit seems to be the path Britain is going down, with some of the consequences of this surfacing e.g. falling value of the pound the former prime minister does make an important point. After negotiations have taken place and the terms of Brexit have become clear it is only democratic to seek once again public opinion. Otherwise the government runs the risk of implementing a deal that Brexit voters themselves may not necessarily approve of.
For those who voted for Brexit the speech may have caused some offence, as he calls into question public judgment. The argument could be made that Blair has no right to intervene, having disappeared from politics since leaving Downing Street. Although Blair did make reference to some of the factors that fueled a Brexit vote e.g. increased immigration, he still failed to grasp the seriousness of such issues for some voters. And for this reason his pro-globalization outlook will continue to conflict with the prevailing mood of the electorate.
Of course Blair’s speech was not met with the best reception, Downing Street was quick to reject a second vote and members from the Labour Partly were equally swift to voice their disapproval. A few Labour MP’s questioned the timing of his speech, especially ahead of important by-elections in pro-Brexit constituencies. Not only could this go on to harm the party’s chance of winning, it could also fuel more divisions within the party. Under the leadership of Corbyn, Labour MPs have been instructed to knuckle down and not obstruct the government in its steps to evoke Article 50. For MPs who represent constituencies that voted remain, Blair’s speech may make some rethink their views on Brexit.
By Valerine Gichonjo
Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images