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Nick Wood: Most of us would take Farage’s word over Blair’s any time


Tony “I’m a pretty straight kind of guy” Blair has re-entered the debate over Europe.

With breathtaking effrontery, the former Prime Minister accused Nigel Farage of “deceiving” voters by fuelling grievances about immigration and Europe.

But where does the real deceit lie over immigration?

Blair seems to have forgotten that it was his government in 2003 who predicted that immigration from the eight former Soviet bloc countries who joined the EU in 2004 would amount to no more than 13,000 people a year.

In the event, some 700,000 Eastern Europeans came to the UK over the ensuing decade, contributing to net migration levels of 200,000 a year, sadly roughly the same level as today.

Blair has never apologised for that astonishing blunder. In fact, he said in 2012 that he did not regret it because Poles and others did the country good.

Former Labour ministers Jack Straw and David Blunkett, both in key roles when the decision was taken to apply no restrictions on entry from the so-called A8 countries, have adopted a more contrite tone than the shameless Mr Blair.

Straw, Foreign Secretary at the time, later admitted it was a “spectacular mistake”. Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, has warned of the dangers of riots in his city of Sheffield over the influx of Romanians.

Nor does Blair’s wildly inaccurate 13,000-a-year projection look like an honest mistake. Courtesy of Andrew Neather, his former speech writer, mass immigration was a deliberate Labour policy radically to change the country and to “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”. Ministers were reluctant to speak out publicly for fear of alienating Labour’s “core working class vote”.

So who is deceiving the public now?

Mr Blair has also got a splendid track record of being profoundly wrong about Europe.

In 2002, after being frustrated by Gordon Brown and William Hague, in his quest to scrap the pound, Blair told Jeremy Paxman’s Newsnight that he would be happy to be remembered as the man who told the British people they should join the single currency and that rejecting it on political grounds would be “crazy”.

As for Hague and his supporters, they were “foolish and backward” to rule out joining the euro in the 2001-2005 Parliament.

Blair’s claim to be a “pretty straight sort of guy” came early on in his premiership after it was revealed he had taken a £1 million donation from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and then exempted the sport from the ban on tobacco sponsorship.

All one can say is that his claim wore pretty thin after 10 years of spinning and dissembling – and that’s not including the evasions and worse of the Iraq war.

Mr Blair is reputedly worth £70 million these days. And at the age of 61, he still hankers after a return to the world stage, hence his angling for the job of President of the European Council, which falls vacant at the end of the year.

David Cameron has called himself the heir to Blair. Let’s hope he no longer feels in the Great Spinner’s debt.

This article was first published on the Media Intelligence Partners blog.

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Nick Wood
Nick Wood
Chief Executive of Media Intelligence Partners

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