In a world of Trump and Brexit, Tony Blair wants to be the voice of the global centre

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 9:33pm

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has given himself a new mission in the era of Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit: the voice of centrism in an increasingly populist global political arena.

The former prime minister has set up a new organisation due to be launched in the new year. It is not intended to act as an anti-Brexit campaign and will not focus solely on Britain. Instead, it will look at the global forces that have led to Brexit and how the centre left has weakened as a political force, as well as coming up with policy responses to the arguments of anti-globalists.

Details have yet to be finalised, but the main focus will be hard policy answers to issues such as stagnating wages, immigration, anti-elitism and attitudes to globalisation.

Critics claim that Blair personifies the global elite and a political class that has lost the trust of the electorate, and would therefore be a gift to the Brexit cause.

But an ally has argued: “He believes there is a vacuum in the centre of British politics, where no one is articulating the view of millions. He also thinks the centre left needs to recover its radicalism. He thinks Labour has suspended all intellectual thought. He is very focused on policy, not just Europe, partly as a way to legitimise his political presence.”

Blair has recruited Jim Murphy, a former Scottish Labour leader and shadow defence secretary, as one of his advisers.

Patrick Loughran, a well regarded former special adviser to Blair’s colleague Peter Mandelson when he was business secretary, will also work on the new organisation. Loughran has been working for Tony Blair Associates for a year, where he advises governments on public service reform programmes, but he is now focused on Blair’s future role in politics.

Blair’s allies say he is not seeking to become involved in Labour party politics and that the question of a new political party remains unknowable.

Blair has had discussions with the former chancellor George Osborne, leading pro-European Labour backbench MPs and Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader who is now actively researching the consequences of Brexit on different parts of the British economy.

A source said Blair regards Brexit as the biggest challenge facing UK politics and as a former prime minister, believes he is entitled to articulate a view. He does not think he is tainted by policy decisions such as the Iraq war and does not think that his reputation is irrecoverable.

The former prime minister also thinks that there is nothing he can do to win over his media critics. The source added: “He thinks there are people willing to listen to his analysis, and maybe to follow.”

Aides formally denied a weekend report that he had described current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a nutter” or Prime Minister Theresa May as “a lightweight”. But they confirmed Blair will announce the new role in the new year, adding that his team will move office and there will be a consolidation of the various groups he currently runs. He has already said he is closing his for-profit businesses, which have attracted criticism for the range of international consultancy work.

Blair has made a series of interventions hinting at an active return to politics . In one response, he said: “The political centre has lost its power to persuade and its essential means of connection to the people it seeks to represent. Instead, we are seeing a convergence of the far left and far right.

“The right attacks immigrants while the left rails at bankers, but the spirit of insurgency, the venting of anger at those in power and the addiction to simple, demagogic answers to complex problems are the same for both extremes. Underlying it all is a shared hostility to globalisation.”