I once commented that our immigration policy was depleting the health service in Bulgaria. “Nick Griffin says that” was offered as a refutation. Blair’s views are not wrong just because he is regarded as discredited. But I am surprised that Blair has made what seems to me this particular faux pas of a full frontal attempt to defeat Brexit. In suggesting that people might want to change their minds, he offers arguments which I happen to agree with, but, and this is the biggest surprise for me, he does nothing to give those who feel strongly that we must take back control from Europe an emotional reason to change their minds.
When he swept into power in 1997 with a large majority, Tony Blair had engaged the emotions of a large section of the electorate. Not the section we now need to engage: they feel beleaguered, and they think they have identified one of the main causes.
Tony Blair sets out a case against Brexit. The New Statesman made an even stronger case against Brexit using Theresa May’s own words. I gave my own view of how the consequences of Brexit had emerged as rather different from, and less favourable than most of us had envisaged in my blog on 16th October. But these arguments will fall on deaf ears in ’rust belt’ areas, or wherever voters feel economically insecure . They just do not see any EU benefits as applying to them.
The main problem as I see it is that Brexit will not in fact deliver what many of its supporters think. Theresa May is on record as dismissing the points system which Nigel Farage claimed would work once we were out of Europe. It is difficult to see what other tools she has at her disposal. The massive, and unexpected influx which has brought about some of these insecurities has already happened. As it happens, numbers of immigrants from Europe are falling already. Brexit will not accelerate this trend.
That should have at least been a part of Tony Blair’s plea to those he hopes will change their minds. But something positive will be needed as well. I had originally intended to discuss how the world basic income might have something to offer, though I doubt whether Tony Blair has yet joined up the dots. Next week, unless something topical crops up?