Tony Blair: MPs should not vote for a General Election

The former British Labour Party leader signals to supporters in Parliament that a General Election is not the answer they are looking for.

by Patrick Sullivan, Political Editor on 26 January 2019 01:49

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Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was interviewed by Bloomberg Daybreak: Europe, this week in Davos. The interview was vintage Blair; all the traditional hand gestures came out, when the former PM wanted to emphasise a point and his position ran counter to that of Jeremy Corbyn. The main differences between now and the New Labour years is that the roles of Blair and Corbyn have reversed.

Instead of Blair leading the Labour Party, with Corbyn as the serial rebel; Jeremy Corbyn now leads the Party and it is Tony Blair's turn to go rogue. The other main difference between now and then, of course, is that Brexit is now a thing. Unfortunately for Mr. Corbyn, and probably justly, he cannot rely on the same level of discipline from his backbenchers, as Mr. Blair could from his. Indeed, even now the former Prime Minister, who led Labour to three successive General Election victories is held in greater esteem than the present Labour Party leader amongst the majority of his own backbenchers.

This gives significant weight to any of Mr. Blair's pronouncements, especially when they are indicative of which cause of action he would like Labour MPs to take. Many of them would have first won their seats with him as their Party's standard bearer and will still look to him for leadership. It is also helpful for this former Prime Minister, that he is simpatico with his immediate successor Gordon Brown on the issue of Brexit.

In a move bound to send ripples across Westminster, Mr. Blair intimated that the present leader of his Party was wrong headed in his approach to Brexit. He emphasised that Brexit stood separate and apart from day-to-day Party Politics saying: “The Labour Party would obviously like to have a General Election but I think this issue is a sui generis issue. It's an issue that stands on its own. If you look at the Conservative Party, and indeed, the Labour Party, there are different points of opinion and, in a way, I think dealing with this issue on its own merits makes more sense to me.”

As can be expected with any interview now conducted with the Prime Minister, who if unrestrained, would have taken the UK into the Euro, Mr. Blair's solution to break the present political deadlock was to, once more, advocate for another, final referendum. This is nothing new, but what was noteworthy was his response to the suggestion of whether people would feel cheated, if their was a second referendum.

Asked whether this would lead to protests in the streets and social unrest, Mr. Blair dismissed the idea out of hand declaring: “I am a real sceptic on this. I mean we are going back and asking the the British people; we're not asking some other people.” Mr. Blair is obviously sees, rightly or wrongly, suggestions of civil unrest, akin to that we are presently witnessing in France, as a straw man.

He has not let this argument deter him from pushing for a so-called “People's Vote”. Some Brexiteers are taking note of Mr. Blair's recent inventions in British Politics promoting a second referendum. They are treating the former PM and his allies in this effort extremely serious and are leaving nothing to chance. Beginning preparations for a so-called People's Vote, before the starting gun has even been fired on the potential campaign; last night grassroots pro-Brexit group Leavers of Britain held a Campaign Workshop to prepare their supporters for that eventuality. By all accounts the event was packed to the rafters.

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