Back in the spotlight, or stuck in the wings? Blair re-enters the stage

Post (an extended) interval; re-enter Tony Blair stage left. The stage is frenzied, chaotic and noisy. A ‘Vote Leave’ banner hangs dishevelled above, and a silhouette of Brussels burning haunts the backdrop. Blair moves centre stage. A bright, heavenly beam hits him. Quiet descends around. A cool blue wash is cast over the stage, and order is restored. End scene.

This might be how Tony Blair hoped, or even imagined how, his return to British politics would look. The reality is a much messier situation. The days of New Labour’s slick PR machine are gone. So far Blair’s reintroduction has only added another flicker to the pre-existing Brexit furore.

To recap, former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an extensive interview with the New Statesman, announced that he wanted to return to British politics. Not necessarily in a leadership position, or in elected office, but to offer his voice as an elder statesman in public discourse.

In this interview he warned that Brexit “can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain gain cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up”. Though not calling for a second referendum, he hinted heavily that it is a credible possibility.

Shortly after this, the man who Blair replaced as Prime Minister, John Major backed his former rival’s assertion. Shortly after, a former Lib Dem leader, Paddy Ashdown, dangled the very real chance of BrexitRef ‘mark 2’ (in some form or the other).

So does the return of the class of 97 provide a glimmer of hope for the many businesses, who would preferably role-back the clock to before June 2016, sidestepping the impeding uncertainty of the next two years? Don’t bet on it.

Many view ‘establishment’ figures like John Major and especially Tony Blair as having heightened Euroscepticism and fuelled the desire to ‘kick the system’, which boiled over on 23rd June.

Such interventions could further the anger towards the political class; adding to the view that there is a group of out of touch professional politcrats, running the system as their own, financed by big business and bigger banks.

The bigger issue for Blair is that his legacy is tarnished by Iraq; his re-intervention may seem like a career move, rather than a genuine call for public service.

For businesses to secure the best outcome from Brexit, engaging in discussions, and lending a rational voice to the process is the most sensible way to avoid an unsavoury Brexit for business. Harking back to the way things were in the ‘swinging 90’s’ is a tantalising prospect for some, but a venture with a slim chance of success. Voices ‘from the past’ therefore do little to help business. The challenge for ‘remainers’ is finding a new narrative which can go with the times, and aid the prospects of business.

  We love Scrap, by Elliot Brown is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Jamie Leich

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