Tony Blair is hoping to act to combat the populist forces that have led to the UK deciding to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump by producing hard policy responses to the anger felt about globalisation.
The former prime minister has set up a new organisation due to be launched in the new year. It is not intended to act as an anti-Brexit campaign and will not focus solely on Britain. Instead, it will look at the global forces that have led to Brexit and how the centre left has weakened as a political force.
Blair’s concern is as much to galvanise what he considers a voiceless centre ground so that it can recover the traction it has lost in recent years to a resurgent populist politics. Details have yet to be finalised, but the main focus will be hard policy answers to issues such as stagnating wages, immigration, anti-elitism and attitudes to globalisation.
Critics claim that Blair personifies the global elite and a political class that has lost the trust of the electorate, and would therefore be a gift to the Brexit cause.
But an ally has argued: “He believes there is a vacuum in the centre of British politics, where no one is articulating the view of millions. He also thinks the centre left needs to recover its radicalism. He thinks Labour has suspended all intellectual thought. He is very focused on policy, not just Europe, partly as a way to legitimise his political presence.”
Blair may encounter a challenge from rival centrist pro-European groupings, concerned that the former prime minister is the wrong messenger to combat populist anti-elitism. Some argue that Alan Milburn, the former Labour party chairman and current chair of the social mobility commission, might be a better spokesman for a pro-European cause committed to working towards a second referendum.
Blair has recruited Jim Murphy, the former Scottish Labour leader and shadow defence secretary, as one of his advisers.
Patrick Loughran, a well regarded former special adviser to Peter Mandelson when he was business secretary, will also work on the new organisation after leaving the consultancy Blue Rubicon. Loughran has been working for Tony BlairAssociates for a year, where he advises governments on public service reform programs, but he is now focused on Blair’s future role in politics.
Blair’s allies say he is not seeking to become involved in Labour party politics and that the question of a new political party remains unknowable.
Blair has had discussions with the former chancellor George Osborne, leading pro-European Labour backbench MPs and Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader who is now actively researching the consequences of Brexit on different parts of the British economy.
Blair regards Brexit as the biggest challenge facing UK politics and as a former prime minister, believes he is entitled to articulate a view. He does not think he is tainted by policy decisions such as the Iraq war and does not think that his reputation is irrecoverable.
The former prime minister also thinks that there is nothing he can do to win over his media critics. The source added: “He thinks there are people willing to listen to his analysis, and maybe to follow.”
Aides formally denied a weekend report that he had described Jeremy Corbyn as “a nutter” or Theresa May as “a lightweight”. But they confirmed Blair will announce the new role in the new year, adding that his team will move office and there will be a consolidation of the various groups he currently runs. He has already said he is closing his for-profit businesses, which have attracted criticism for the range of international consultancy work.
Source: The Guardian UK