TONY Blair is back to fight the same old straw man – the mythical Right-wing bogeyman, personified as Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party. Blair is reducing the EU elections of 23 May to a fight against Farage: ‘All that matters is that on 24 May, Nigel Farage and his allies on the far Right of the Conservative Party cannot claim they speak for Britain.’
Blair is not a good arguer, if only cowardly and uneducated journalists would realise. He is consistently reductionist, contradictory, hypocritical, subjective, and dishonest. In his latest attack on Farage, Blair reduces politics to two sides: Farage plus the far Right versus Remainers.
Contradictorily, Blair wants to pretend that ‘the country is irredeemably split on the issue of whether Brexit is good or bad’. This is a knowing misrepresentation. A clear and consistent majority still want Brexit. Blair claims that Remainers include ‘those who believe that, after this degree of mess and on a decision of this magnitude, the final say should be with the people’. But the ‘people’ have already spoken, in June 2016, and the mess is due to frustration of Brexit. Blair doesn’t represent the people. He hasn’t urged implementation of Brexit first, followed by a confirmatory referendum later. He is a hypocrite.
Latest opinion polls show that the Brexit Party is riding high at 34 per cent of intended votes, more than three times those of the Conservative Party. Caught between is the Labour Party at 21 per cent.
Blair opens his big mouth to protect his legacy. As he says in the same Guardian piece: ‘If, like me, despite everything, you can vote Labour, then vote Labour.’ Then he conflates voting Labour with voting Remain. He doesn’t mention that most Labour-voting districts voted Brexit in 2016. Rather than urge the Labour Party to embrace Brexit on democratic grounds alone, he spins the current Marxist Labour Party as a Remainer Party. His spin starts and ends tenuously. Blair notes that: ‘Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, has advocated a people’s vote.’ He singles out Keir Starmer (Shadow Brexit Secretary) too for praise. He claims that most ‘Labour Party members, MPS and voters are against Brexit and certainly against that Brexit advocated by the Brexit Party and its fellow travellers in the Conservative Party’.
Thus, Blair’s argument for voting Labour amounts to: there are only two sides: Labour is on the side of Remain and the other side is a Right-wing alliance of Farage and the Conservative Party.
Farage and the Conservative Party are old targets for the smear of ‘Right-wing.’ Early in Blair’s government, he offered ever-closer union with the EU as a solution to the supposed ‘forces of conservatism, the cynics, the elites, the establishment’, the ‘old elites, establishments that have run our professions and our country too long’, ‘the old prejudices, where foreign means bad’.
After he left office in 2010, he blamed opposition on an impossible conspiracy of Left-wing news media and a Right-wing ‘establishment’.
Lord Adonis (who served Blair as Transport Secretary) has been Blair’s most consistent seconder in this strategy. In December 2017, he resigned as Theresa May’s ‘tsar of national infrastructure’, incredibly blaming Brexiteers and the Right wing. In his letter to Theresa May, he accused her of ‘allying with UKIP and the Tory hard right’. A few weeks later, he wrote a column mischaracterising Farage as ‘this country’s de facto prime minister – pulling the strings of a weak and directionless prime minister’. He also accused Farage of ‘violent language,’ which turned out to be a misrepresentation of Farage’s off-hand comment that a second referendum in favour of Brexit would ‘kill’ opposition. In 2018, Will Hutton and Lord Adonis published a polemic that lists Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage as exemplars of ‘Faragism’ – but these men have no institutional bonds and little affinity. Later that year, Lord Adonis conflated Farage with the ‘right wing of the Conservative Party [that] is scapegoating foreigners’.
In January, Channel 4 broadcast its Brexit movie, The Uncivil War, portraying the Brexiteers of 2016 as fascists and racists. Anna Soubry and two others quit the Conservative Party in February, saying that the ‘right-wing Brexiteers have won’. For the Guardian, Brexiteers are ‘extremists’, conflating ‘supporters of Nigel Farage’ with ‘the Daily Telegraph and the European Research Group’. Worse, Labour’s MP David Lammy characterises Brexiteers as Nazis.
The trouble with this Blairite spin is that Farage has always campaigned against the Conservative Party; and the Parliamentary Conservative Party is already Left of centre. The Parliamentary Conservative Party – under David Cameron and Theresa May – turned into a copy of New Labour, with the same commitment to out-spend on health and social care, to reform nothing, to put social justice before law enforcement, to pretend that it is powerless to control borders, to extend entitlements, to use a ‘means test’ to deny entitlements to those who likely paid the most in taxes already, even to seize property from those in care, and finally to frustrate Brexit, in conformity with almost every other Parliamentary party.
If Brexiteers had predominated, Britain would have left the EU by now. In the EU elections on 23 May, voters will repudiate the main parties because the main parties are uselessly Left of centre and anti-Brexit. Yet Blair, his fellow fake centrists, and the fake conservatives of the Parliamentary Conservative Party will still stammer that the solution is to shift Leftwards, kill the Right wing and fight Brexit, until a general election forces changes in their Parliamentary parties in conformity with popular will.