“But this is what I keep saying to people. This is like agreeing to a house swap without having seen the other house … You’ve got to understand, this has been driven essentially ideologically,” Tony Blair said about the Brexit decision in an interview to the New Statesman, published on Thursday (24 Nov.).

The Former Prime Minister, who admitted he won’t be returning to politics due to his marred public image after his catastrophic decision to back president’s Bush war on Iraq, has opened up about Brexit, Trump and Britain’s future. While he explained that he doesn’t want to take part in the Brexit negotiations, he expressed his desire to participate in public life and engage with new ideas as a result of his “dismay” with Western politics. 

But Blair wants to revive a certain “progressive centre or centre left”, which has now become outdated. It feels more like a watered-down version of a politics that is unappealing to most people. In a world where the populism of the right is trying to devour a radical left which is still struggling to reassemble itself, Blair’s “muscular centre” offers no solid solutions.

On Theresa May

He talked about Theresa May’s difficult position in delivering Brexit and stressed that unless she delivers it, “she will lose the support of that very strong right-wing media. And they’ll open up a rift in the Tory party again. It will be very difficult for her, and that’s why I don’t disrespect her at all. She’s got a very difficult political hand to play.”

On Jeremy Corbyn

He kept his reservations about Corbyn: “let’s wait and see,” he said. For Blair, Corbyn is someone “on the far left of politics” who has been “consistent for the last 35 years that I’ve known him.” Such a position isn’t “correct” or one “from which he can win an election.”

What can Tony Blair do now?

“I can’t come into front-line politics. There’s just too much hostility, and also there are elements of the media who would literally move to destroy mode if I tried to do that”

For Blair, both the left and right have a regressive attitude towards technology. In this respect, this is why he wants to build a platform driven by technology that would enable people to exchange ideas and formulate solutions outside of the tiring space of political debates. 

“The thing that’s really tragic about politics today is that the best ideas about politics aren’t in politics. I find the ideas are much more interesting in the technology sector, much more interesting ideas about how you change the world.”

On Brexit

He said that securing access to the single market will be the central focus of the negotiations. He also added the possibility that Brexit “can be stopped if the British people decide that.”
“Either you get maximum access to the single market – in which case you’ll end up accepting a significant number of the rules on immigration, on payment into the budget, on the European Court’s jurisdiction. People may then say, ‘Well, hang on, why are we leaving then?’ Or alternatively, you’ll be out of the single market and the economic pain may be very great, because beyond doubt if you do that you’ll have years, maybe a decade, of economic restructuring.”

On Trump

He believes that the President-elect’s triumph was based on the people’s desire for change and how the left “doesn’t get this.” Trump’s victory was “part of a general global movement, which is partly a reaction to globalisation and partly economic. But it is also a lot to do with culture and identity, and people’s feelings that the world is changing rapidly around them.” Blair is correct in recognising the forces that have driven the US elections, but he doesn’t express any dislike or favouritism towards Trump.

Blair, however, doesn’t reject globalisation, but affirms his belief in free market economics and an open society. Him and his wife are the owners of properties worth at least £27m, but his total wealth might even be twice that, according to certain media reports.

On the future

In the interview, Blair expresses his certainty and belief in a strong and radical centre that can deliver a democracy that works for everyone. He has an unwavering optimism about the prospect of globalisation and a desire to fight against those radical forces of populism exhibited by the left and right. For him, history moves forward towards enlightenment and progress: “If you think of the world your son is growing up in and the world my grandfather grew up in, if you think what he’s going to have and what my father had, I mean, come on! There’s a lot to celebrate.”