Of Blair and Brexit

blair_2019152bJudging by the response so far in the newspapers and online, Tony Blair’s attempt at intervention on Friday morning in the headlong rush to Full English Brexit – or what he called, “Brexit At All Costs,” his call to neo-liberal arms – has been still born, poisoned by the toxicity of both his legacy as the begetter of the Iraq debacle, and by his being, like Hilary Clinton, exactly the wrong mouth to open at the wrong time. What was strange, however, in watching that speech on Friday morning in London while I was, coincidentally, in London, was firstly, the strange sensation of listening to a political leader who, no matter what one might think of him, spoke in whole sentences, making a logical argument…like a grown up. (The Guardian editorial on Saturday made the same point.) The other marker of Blair’s sudden “re-presence”, as it were, was the stark relief into which it threw the utter absence of anything like a coherent, mainstream opposition to what, a year ago, was being categorically denounced by exactly that mainstream as a lunatic act of self-harm. He was absolutely right to remark on the distance we seem to have travelled (and I include Boris Johnson in that “we” for the moment) to the point now where to cast doubt upon the ineffable wisdom of economic and cultural suicide is a crime against democracy and hope.

The Corbynite Left Wing of the Suicidal Tendency have, of course, focussed on their former leader’s denunciation of their own hard won incoherence as predictably as John McTernan has gushed over with an ejaculation of nostalgia. While, thoroughly unnerved in way that they have not been since their genetic surrender to Brexitititis, Boris and the rest of those who now claim to exclusively represent the Settled Will of the British People (whoever they are) have exhorted their “people” to jolly well turn off the television and go and do something less boring instead.

Because, like it or not, and there must be very few of us on the Yes side of the binary divide in 2104 who do, Blair’s speech on Friday was undoubtedly and incomparably the best and nearly the only effective political utterance in favour of the 48% of us in this disunited Kingdom who voted to Remain …including during the campaign last year. The “opposition”, for different reasons, has been absent or without relevance. And that very much includes the SNP, whose advocacy of a differential Brexit for the Nations has, in a UK context, been easily dismissed by the Tories (in the absence of collaboration with any UK party and yes, I KNOW that’s not entirely their fault…) as just the Jocks whining again.

Nonetheless, the political strategy adopted by the SNP in Westminster, that of, in the meantime, acting as if it still mattered that they were there, is unequivocally the right one. But the logical concomitant of that stance is to offer solidarity to anything, no matter its provenance, that looks like a coherent UK strategy to averting Brexit before the Tories chuck us off a cliff into the low wage, tax haven waters around an offshore Empire Museum. And right now, Tony Blair is the only sprat in the Channel. And in that light, toxic or not as his brand may be, I thought when Nicola Sturgeon responded with a degree of positivity to Blair’s speech beyond what even the Blairites in London could publically bring themselves to muster, that that was the right thing to do in principle and practice. It was smart politics that the wider Yes movement needs to wise up to.

For one thing, in 2014, we lost. The Scottish electorate voted by 55% to 45% to give the British State another go. However much some of us may regret it, especially now, that’s what “we” did. So, despite the aforementioned suicidal self-direction of said anachronistic Statelet, fast evolving into a bad remake of an Ealing Comedy Little England, from EVEL to a Tory Majority in 2015 to Brexit and its potential disintegration of everything that once held the British polity together, it remains the first duty of the democratic participants therein, including the Jocks, even among the ruins, to try to find a British way out of a British disaster. Tony Blair’s call for the Remoaners to Rise up and reverse the decision of June 23rd 2016 is the first thing I‘ve heard since then with even a ghost of resemblance to political agency about it.

As a matter of purely practical politics, If we act now as if it were already a given that there is only a Scottish Solution, to the oncoming catastrophe; if we fail to even try to make common cause with those who want to see a British reversal of direction, whether via a second referendum or, (as seems SLIGHTLY more likely) a shared-in-common pro EU and anti-Brexit stance in the general election of 2020 at the latest, then we firstly condemn ourselves to continued national irrelevance on the UK stage, and secondly, we kiss goodbye to the votes of those who kept us in the UK last time precisely because they wanted to give the wheezing old Lion one last chance. What is worse, even if we do scrape a win in indyref 2, we would be at loggerheads from the very off with those in our nearest, larger neighbouring country who might otherwise be disposed to wish us well. And it will be in the future, as it always was in the past, in the Scottish National Interest not to have them too pissed off with us for too much of the time.

It may well already be too late to find a “British” way out of Brexit. If all “they” can come up with is Blair and Major taking a nostalgic globalist stroll over the Millennium Bridge, the very embodiment of an unlamented, elapsed era of our political and cultural life, then it may well be that the bumpy road to independence and EU membership as a new nation is the road we’re going to go down. But unless “we” do what the people told “us” in 2014, and give being British one last try on this issue above all issues, then we’re not going to take the people with us that we’d be miles better off taking with us.

No matter how uncomfortable the company, being a grown up country means that not everyone likes to sing the same songs.

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  1. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Nicola Sturgeon and Tony Blair. In perfect harmony.

    interpolar yesterday,
    Do you need any more evidence of the total assimilation of the SNP into the British Establishment?
    If Her Majesty’s Loyal 56 at Westminster look bad, tell me, what is a so called ‘nationalist government’ doing, running things up here for their puppet masters down south?
    What a fukin mess.

    1. c rober says:

      Roll out the tony , roll out the kiss of death. There is nothing more to this than putting NICOLA in the sun , its convictions by juxtaposition.

  2. Chris Clark says:

    Peter, a thoughtful and relevant article. Mrs May and her fellow-travellers keep telling us that she wants to negotiate “what’s best for Britain”. The ethical, democratic and logical consequence of that position is to negotiate the best deal that has England and Wales leaving, and Scotland and Northern Ireland remaining in the EU. That’s what the people said. The democratic decision of the Scottish electorate should be ignored any more than that of England should be ignored. And if Mrs May thinks that negotiation would be difficult just wait until she tries to negotiate Brexit with the 27 EU States.

    1. c rober says:

      But it wont be with individuals , the trade deal will be with EU as one.

      As for best deal , that best deal is a combination for preventativism and protectionism for England and Wales. With special deals paid for by the rest for those regions in England that voted to leave – no consequences , but bailout.

  3. Chris Clark says:

    Sorry, folks.It should have read “The democratic decision of the Scottish electorate should NOT be ignored etc …” Gremlins I guess.

  4. interpolar says:

    It don’t think they are. Nicola Sturgeon has been attempting to work in good faith. She is respecting the 2014 result, and working on the basis of her election pledge. We could not say that much for the Conservative party. Sturgeon cannot be accused (other than incredibly frothing-at-the-mouth Tankmaster Ruthie) of using Brexit as an excuse for Indy. I would imagine that she will announce Indy2 in April or May, and after that there will be a change in tone. At that point it will be an advantage to have a strong Scottish voice in London, not least in the person of Alex Salmond, something that was not available last time.

    My personal taste would be for Scotland to become independent tomorrow, but it would be foolish to attempt it without reaching out to 2014 No voters. The British government will be exposed in the months ahead as rash and callous. The SNP will increasingly look like the last bastion of sanity, and that can only be good for the independence movement.

    1. interpolar says:

      Btw – that was a reply to Richard above.

    2. Richard MacKinnon says:

      interpolar,
      I don’t share your optimism for the future nor your unquestioning support for the SNP as a government at Holyrood and as the opposition at Westminster. Also, I dont think Nicola Sturgeon will be that keen on calling a second referendum any time soon.
      First, I think the criticism of the SNP perfomance at Holyrood is justified. On nearly every devolved matter they have come up short. Especially education. I resigned my membership when the SNP refused to support a Labour proposal (last year) on organ donation (opt out rather than opt in). It was the right thing to do morally and financially (it would have in time saved money). The SNP MSPs decided to oppose it during the debate (by tweets) not because they didnt support the Labour proposal but because it was Jackie Ballie that summed up. They went into the debate agreeing to back Labour, but got their phones whilst Baillie was summing up and said ‘fuck that’. Can you believe that? Kids on dialysis. That is the stakes in the games the SNP are playing with to beat Labour.
      But performance, good or bad, is not the point I want to make. Holyrood is a devolved administration. It is in my view no more than a mechanism of central government to govern in the out posts of the kingdom. If you think Nicola Sturgeon is doing a good job or as you put it, “………..attempting to work in good faith……..respecting the 2014 result, and working on the basis of her election pledge.” I don’t. I think the whole spectacle that is Holyrood and our ‘nationalist’ government looks ridiculous. What is a party that advocates independence doing running a devolved assembly, if thats all it is ever going to be? I cant watch it any longer. I am embarassed by it.
      Therefore, if there is going to be another referendum as you are so confident there will be interpolar, then the question has to be final and finish the constitutional question for good. Scotland has been in a union with our English neighbours for over 300 years. Half of Scotland may not like it but that is a fact. We cannot go on with our neverending restlessness in our relationship with England.
      As I say this time the question has to be conclusive ; Holyrood or Westminster, which one do we want to govern us and which one do we abolish.
      My bet, for what its worth, is that Sturgeon and her party will bottle it, there is just too much to lose, in jobs, in entitlement, in faux self importance and lets not forget the gold. You can see why I am cynical.

      1. interpolar says:

        Well, you are welcome to your opinion, Richard, but even if Indy2 were to fail, I don’t think it should be a choice between Westminster or Holyrood. Devolved administration is practiced in many parts of the world, severe centralisation does not usually work very well.
        You may choose to criticise the SNP, and their record is certainly not beyond rapproach (I am not quite sure how infer that my support is unquestioning), but it is better than what the opposition has had to offer, and Scotland has fared better since 1999 that it would have without devolution. And if you want full independence like I do, the SNP is the best vehicle to achieving it.

      2. c rober says:

        Just for interest why didnt the Labour party in 1999 suggest such opt in , or in power in Westminster? Its something btw I believe in also.

        Dont think for a second here I cannot add to the list for you about the SNP , but with sovereignty comes accountability.

        After any indy I will be doing just that , on cycle law , claires law (good in theory but removes just like cycle law innocence and errs on guilt) , removal of double jep , of lessening corroboration , LDP , and land reform my list is probably much longer than yours.But not as long as my one about NuLabour , Slab and Tory.

        As for Baillie , well hardly the idea of interests of the greater Scotland from the day she took the kerd. Wants Trident on the Clyde , part of the whitewash of preventing oil on the clyde as a result – representing a party that is in decline for its own mandates , one that sold Scotland and Stole from it , rejecting the amendments of the SNP on Brexit , and aiding the supposed very enemy they became.

        I get the argument , but at the end of the day , having been there , hospital staff ask about donation from their loved ones – that consent is already there , whereas opt out is removing that consent.

  5. Graeme Purves says:

    There is no British way out of Brexit.

    1. Peter Arnott says:

      You may well be right…but that is a conclusion you have already come to. We need the votes of people who aren’t there yet..so we need to start somewhere else in the story.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        “We need the votes of people who aren’t there yet..”

        You are Sean Clerkin.

        You have NO respect for those who are not mouth-breathers and useful idiots.

        I am unsure if that is a simple insult or a blood libel. ‘Handle those who are not fully with us yet, gently and with kid gloves and soft words, for they are slow & misguided, not bright and easily disturbed, and may not appreciate Tough Love is a golden path from their insufficiencies, poor things.’

        ’tis sad, but honest

        ejc

        CityBankster

  6. dougie strang says:

    Great piece Peter. Strange times indeed. I do wonder, though, whether Blair hasn’t just spotted his chance for some degree of political redemption: dashing leader of the Resistance, a kind of retroverse De Gaulle in a Britain at war with itself 🙂

    1. I agree Dougie, oh great here comes the most toxic political figure in recent history to save the day!

      I also think that they are so Machievellian that its not a coincidence this is a few days before Stoke.

  7. Doubting Thomas says:

    Ffs why would this utterly discredited former politician think that anyone would listen to anything he had to say.
    He should be serving life imprisonmemt for his war crimes.

  8. Gralloched says:

    Remind us all how the Tories voted on the Iraq war ?

    1. Doubting Thomas says:

      Are you serious?
      Whether the Tories voted or not in the greatest deception of Parliament ever to take place is irrelevant.
      Blair, Brown, Campbell, Straw and Mandelson have blood on their hands.
      They were already commited to going to war before any vote had taken place.
      Typical of the former labour voters who have deserted their former loyalties and jumped on the Indy bandwagon, it’s always the Tories fault.
      Fortunately people see through that.
      Even Sturgeon is starting to realise people don’t believe it but you mob who jumped the dyke from New Labour to the SNP cannot bring yourselves to address the fact that thus probably the must heinous and dishonest political cabal this country has ever seen.

      1. c rober says:

        If Iraq and Lbya are on their hands , because of oil , what about McCrone and the reclassifying of the north sea , or in 2014 and 2015 denying the participation in the Clyde oil coverup historically?

        This is the leader of a party that came to power by becoming tory in England , aided by the party in Scotland , the same party that lied its way through indy , and watered down the vow even more Than English Tories.

        As Tony was Toxic , so was his clones – more so in Scotland. He is the final nail in that party in Scotland , with Dugdale being the hammer , or is it the plank of wood or two.

        As I said above then this is why he will tag himself onto indy , in order to spread the virus – patient effing zero.

  9. Gaga Glasgow says:

    Terrible article, in my opinion, revealing a really special lack of understanding.

    The suggestion that it’s up to us, “the jocks”, to help find a British way out of the Brexit mess is so far off the mark that I don’t know where to begin. I’m tempted to swear and say things like “go fuck yourself”, but I won’t.

    So, let me put it this way; whether Scotland gets independence or not, and nobody in this world wishes that we do more than I do, I pray for the hardest and most destructive Brexit imaginable.

    In that sense I believe in giving Brexit voters exactly what they are screaming for, even if it hurts us. Thats democracy eh…

    As for Tony Blair, I have heard him described as marmite. And I agree, he is like marmite, absolutely fucking disgusting.

    English culture is now firmly in the sewers along with its politics. Anyone who suggests we need to go down there and help is absolutely so stupid it fills me with nothing but rage. We should be welding the manhole covers.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      I agree with almost all of the above, but I love Marmite.

  10. Graeme Purves says:

    I am not persuaded that a better future for Scotland can be secured in the clammy embrace of Peter Mandelson.

  11. Jo says:

    While many of us wanted to see someone who mattered speaking common sense about the impact of Brexit Blair was undoubtedly NOT the person to do it.

    In short he is toxic, utterly toxic. He almost certainly always will be and for good reasons.

    We should also remember that he never uttered a word in his life without having an ulterior motive for doing so.

    That is why, unlike Peter, I will not pay the slightest bit of attention to what he has said or praise a single word of it.

    Remember too that many of the tens of thousands fleeing from the Middle East, Libya etc to Europe are in that position because Blair and his pal Bush kicked it all off through their obsession with regime change and interfering in countries whose affairs they had no authority over.

    Finally, bear in mind that even after Chilcot, Blair still insisted he was right! Remember that his response, on the day the report was published, was to organise his own press conference, make his own speech and then do the rounds of the TV studios screaming (until he was almost hoarse) that he was right! So, no Peter, I cannot take seriously a single word he says or find an ounce of respect for him.

  12. e.j. churchill says:

    I don’t think Blair has quite given up on his dream/next job: Head of the Commission, Junker’s successor, which won’t happen if GB is gone, or mosta, anyway.

    OTOH, if Blair can turn the Dreadnought, and Britain (plus chequebook, of course) feels a new affinity for Europe, and transfusion of EU spirit coursing through Blighty’s veins, …

    Since GB pretty well has the whip-hand, President/King/Queen/PM/Der Leader/Saint Blair would be what he wishes to be, and the EU would be as delighted as a sissy on a troup-train.

    Silly? Of course, but it fits all the data points.

    ejc

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