Tony Blair has spent his lunch attempting to charm the Parliamentary Press Gallery. The former prime minister used his appearance before hacks to lay out his pitch for a second referendum. The ardent Remainer claimed that MPs were likely to come round to the idea of a second Brexit vote in the coming weeks as they would work out that there is no Parliamentary majority for any form of Brexit at present. He said that Theresa May’s deal was the worst of both worlds as it wasn’t properly leaving. As a result, Blair argued that the options on the ballot paper in a second vote should simply be ‘Remain’ and a ‘hard Brexit’ – though given that the EU has said that May’s deal is the only deal, that implies Blair is suggesting no deal. He said that were a second referendum to materialise, May’s deal shouldn’t even be an option:
‘Where it ends is anyone’s guess. Mine is that when all the options are voted upon Parliament will come to the view that none can truly be said to reflect the majority will of the people and it is back to them we must go for resolution.’
So, what is Blair up to? Given the lack of love on all sides of the Brexit debate for Theresa May’s deal, it’s clear that in any second vote, it would be a hard sell to tell former Leave voters they had to choose between Remain or something few view as a real Brexit (plenty of whom would say Remain shouldn’t even be on the ballor paper). This is why a number of ‘People’s Vote’ campaigners have talked up the idea of a three option ballot with a preference system. The problem for critics of May’s deal is that although the government’s plans are very few people’s first choice, support increases significantly on second preferences.
It follows that there is also a cynical element to all this. Blair’s argument is that the only way the issue can be resolved is through (a) properly leaving the EU or (b) properly remaining in it. But there’s reason to suspect a straight choice between ‘Remain’ or No Deal could benefit Blair’s cause – polling out today found that Remain has the highest chance of winning in a second referendum if the choice is between that or a ‘No Deal’ Brexit:
Not that we should take the poll as gospel. There’s plenty of reason to suspect that a campaign for a no deal Brexit – set on a Brexit betrayal footing – would gain momentum once underway.