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What the papers say: Why Tony Blair is still wrong about Brexit

20 March 2017

8:37 AM

20 March 2017

8:37 AM

Why did 17.4m people vote for Brexit? A long list of reasons have been put forward but Tony Blair thinks he has the definitive answer: ‘authoritarian populism’. The Sun is not impressed; the paper says that it’s a sorry spectacle to see former Prime Ministers ‘slinging insults’ at voters having been ‘defeated and rejected by the people they used to govern’. What’s more, Blair’s attempt to explain away the referendum shows he is missing the point. After all, the paper argues, Blair seems rather less keen to ‘acknowledge the effects of the uncontrolled immigration he forced on British communities’ in determining the outcome of the referendum. But Blair isn’t alone. Sir John Major has called Brexit voters ‘ultras’.

It’s clear what the likes of Major and Blair are trying to do, the Sun warns: ‘strong-arm Theresa May into keeping Britain in the single market’. So what can the current PM to do silence her noisy predecessors? A snap general election would certainly be one possibility, says the Sun, which points out that it would also get rid of rebel MPs and ‘hobble’ Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. But there is a big reason for Theresa May not to go to the country. At a time of ‘one of the most difficult negotiations in our recent history’ May must ‘avoid the unrest and uncertainty of a political squabble’. So former PMs ‘with too much time on their hands’ should spend some time thinking about how they can ‘contribute to this immense task, rather than seeking to undermine it’, the paper concludes.

Tony Blair did more than anyone to cause Brexit, says the Daily Telegraph, which agrees with the Sun‘s analysis that the former PM should pipe down. Blair’s decision to ‘open Britain’s borders to eastern European workers in 2004’ was an act of ‘flagrant disregard’ for the British public and ‘broke any bond of trust voters had with their leaders’. Only in last year’s referendum, says the Telegraph, did many voters angered by that move finally get the chance to speak out. But for all Blair’s ‘utterly reckless’ ‘zeal’ to tie Britain in with the ‘doomed’ European project, what is most ‘remarkable’ for the Telegraph is Blair’s ‘lack of repentance’. Blair’s insistence that opening up Britain’s borders was the right decision is an act of ‘impressive effrontery, even by Mr Blair’s standards’.

When he wasn’t bemoaning Brexit during his appearance on the Marr show yesterday, Blair also made time to back George Osborne over his controversial decision to take on yet another job, this time as editor of the Evening Standard. Osborne is a ‘highly capable guy’ and was a smart pick, said Blair. But in its editorial today, the Times is less impressed. There is no ‘inherent problem’ with MPs taking on second jobs, says the paper. But the former chancellor has ‘stretched this simple principle to breaking point’. Osborne’s numerous other commitments are ‘already expansive’ – and the decision to take on his latest job is ‘is baffling and wrong’, says the paper. No one is asking Osborne – a man with an apparently ‘formidable intellect’- to take a back seat. But Osborne seems to have forgotten that the Commons is the place for ‘addressing political issues’. After all, the paper points out, the former chancellor has only spoken five times in the Commons since he was sacked by Theresa May in the summer.


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