Many insist Tony Blair’s legacy is toxic, permanently tainted by his decision as prime minister to go to war in Iraq, but Labour’s most successful leader to win three consecutive elections now sees Brexit as a way to return to frontline politics.
It is 20 years since the fresh-faced Blair won the first of three elections in 1997, and he used the anniversary to declare that “this Brexit thing has given me a direct motivation to get more involved in the politics…You need to get your hands dirty and I will.”
Blair has been hinting at returning to politics by intervening in public debates in recent months, but his declaration on Monday in an interview to Mirror significantly comes weeks before the June 8 election, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn not exactly enamoured of his record in office.
Blair, 63, said he will not contest elections, but hinted he was seeking a wider role on the Brexit issue. Admitting that his legacy raises many hackles, Blair said he knew he would be vilified, but said he was passionate about the implications of Brexit for the country.
“We don’t know yet what the final deal on Brexit will be. We are advocating a very simple British common sense position, which is to say, ‘let’s see what the Tories come up with first’. Because there is a bit of the Tory party determined to deliver Brexit no matter what the cost.”
“I know the moment I stick my head out the door I’ll get a bucket of wotsit poured all over me, but I really do feel passionate about this. I don’t want to be in the situation where we pass through this moment of history and I hadn’t said anything because that would mean I didn’t care about this country. I do.”
“It is not frontline politics in the sense I am not standing for parliament. I am not sure I can turn something into a political movement but I think there is a body of ideas out there people would support,” Blair added.
The Conservative party dismissed Blair’s announcement. It said in a statement: “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are even in chaos over whether or not the 1997 General Election result was a good thing or not”.
“Their campaign chair Andrew Gwynne thinks Tony Blair is an inspiration, Jeremy Corbyn thinks he’s a war criminal. This is just further demonstration of what you’d get from Corbyn - a coalition of chaos full of Labour MPs who don’t even think he’s the right man for the job.”