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Mon 6 May 2019 08:14 AM

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'Western democracy is in danger', says former UK PM Tony Blair

Former British prime minister, who won three consecutive elections with the Labour Party between 1997 and 2005, said Britain should put the Brexit decision back to the people

'Western democracy is in danger', says former UK PM Tony Blair
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the Brexit divide is in danger of sabotaging western democracy.

“We should be concerned,” Blair told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview in London. “Western democracy is in danger of setting into two tribes of people who don’t talk to each other, listen to each other or like each other. That’s dangerous.”

Blair said that democracy has a ‘substance, as well as a form’.

“The form of it [democracy] is voting but the substance is a willingness to compromise and accept other people’s points of view as legitimate. All of these things are being undermined at the moment so that’s why we should be worried,” the former politician said.

Scapegoats

Blair, who now runs the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – a not-for-profit think tank tasked with ‘making globalisation work’ – said central politics is on the verge of disappearing in the UK.

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“Essentially, today’s populism is creating scapegoats and not solutions. The right targets immigrants but the left targets anti-business sentiment.

“What’s happening is the mainstream political parties have been captured by groups of activists who are pulling the parties to extremes… you have a situation in Britain today where the Tory party is becoming an old-style nationalistic party and trying to deselect MPs who don’t agree with the Brexiteers. A few years ago it would seem unthinkable that the Conservative party would be behaving like this.

Of his own former government party, Labour, he said ‘it’s become a far-left vehicle with politics that are really from the past’.

“Why shouldn’t we have a chance to think again after all the mess we have been through?”


Blair added that the Labour party today has a ‘curious’ coalition between an older generation of traditional socialists and a younger generation who ‘don’t remember it the first time round’ who now think of it as something new.

“This has led to a resurgence of leftist populism, but neither the left or the right populism has answers to the problems of the world,” Blair said.

‘Politically homeless’

“I think there is a massive group of people who are politically homeless and who are in the end going to find a way of fighting back,” he said.

The former British prime minister, who won three consecutive elections with the Labour Party between 1997 and 2005, said Britain should put the Brexit decision back to the people.

Blair said: “There is every possibility now that we can get a rational process in which we determine what form of Brexit we really want, or decide not to do it and put it back to the people with a second referendum.”

‘Pointless or painful’ Brexit

He added: “There are two different forms of Brexit – a soft one and a hard one – and they are very different in their implications.

“The soft one keeps us in the economic structures of the EU but we exit the political structures and it has the huge drawback of us becoming rule takers, so it’s a weird way of asserting control as you lose the control you’ve already got.

“On the other hand, if we come out of the economic and political structures, the problem is business has been used to trading in the European market in a frictionless way so when they come out there is going to be problems. So that’s why I say there is a choice between a pointless Brexit and a painful one.

“In the end, my view is we should let the people choose as both options have profound drawbacks and neither is as good as the relationship we already have.

“Why shouldn’t we have a chance to think again after all the mess we have been through?”