Tony Blair is deluded if he thinks his speech about Brexit will change people's minds

The former Prime Minister has climbed out of the woodwork just to patronise Leave voters. But why on earth would anyone listen to what he has to say about Brexit?

Geoff Norcott@geoffnorcott
Saturday 18 February 2017 17:59
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What Blair doesn’t realise is that his ‘mission’ strikes an overriding note of contempt, as though we hadn’t evaluated these points before
What Blair doesn’t realise is that his ‘mission’ strikes an overriding note of contempt, as though we hadn’t evaluated these points before

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be married to Tony Blair. But relationships aren’t just about the good times, they’re about about dealing with the inevitable blazing rows that punctuate the tedium of domesticity. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Blair’s answer to any disagreement will always be, “You just don't understand, dear, let me explain it again.”

Anyone who’s been in a relationship with the likes of Tone will know how infuriating this is. You’d rather a proper shouty argument with the odd plant pot getting lobbed out of the window than someone whose moral certitude is as fixed as their rictus grin.

And just when we thought we’d heard the last of it, Blair is at it again. This week he urged the British people to “rise up” against Brexit. It’s totally on-brand, I suppose: if there’s one thing he has a knack for it’s starting insurgencies.

This is the guy who, when a million people marched past his front door, just asked Alastair Campbell to talk about war a little louder.

Tony Blair: Brexit is not inevitable

In the good old days he could do no wrong in the eyes of the adoring British electorate, but it’s not 1997 any more, and now that the public’s not making the choices he likes, he wants to ignore them.

Blair’s return to public life is punctuated by this stance which is at best optimistic and at worse utterly deluded. He seems to genuinely believe that with his irresistible presence he’ll be able to turn public opinion and get a second referendum with a different result.

In his keynote speech, he called Brexit Britain’s biggest decision “since the Second World War” but then accused the Government of being “obsessed by it”. Wouldn’t it be odd to not be a little bit preoccupied with what he admits is the greatest challenge since defeating the Nazis? Maybe he’d have listened to Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” rolling his eyes, sighing, “not that war business again”.

What I find most offensive is the way that he (and others on the liberal left) have precious little room for the idea that the working-class Leave vote was an informed one.

In Blair’s mind the plebs took one bite on a straight banana, a single look at that bus and started setting fire to croissants. There’s no possibility we actually listened to the subsequent scrutiny about the bus claim, is there? We were too busy drinking and carousing to listen to “wot the f**k Jon Snow were bangin’ on abaht”.

The irony is that Blair and his cronies have always posited themselves as more trustworthy guardians of the working class than those mean, patronising Tories. But Brexit has turned them into Victorian patricians. Maybe if we just spent enough time with Tony Blair he could become our EU Henry Higgins, telling us again and again that “the rain in Spain falls mainly without tariffs”.

Blair still thinks he can win on economic argument alone, even though Project Fear has already failed. It’s odd he hasn’t yet twigged that Brexit was about more than money. In the Scottish referendum 44.7 per cent of people voted to leave Britain despite stark warnings about a perilous future for Scotland outside of the Union. Blair and his ilk would think those people simply didn’t listen to their arguments, but I’d suggest more optimistically that many of them accepted those risks, but identity and principle trumped the bottom line.

With yet another fall in the jobless count and a recent upgrade to the outlook for the British economy, it’s now logical to treat the views of economic experts like Mark Carney with caution. They wrongly cried wolf in the case of the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. And let’s not forget these are the same people who, pre-credit crunch, assured us there were no wolves – but forget to add that the markets were about to release the Kraken.

What Blair doesn’t realise is that his “mission” strikes an overriding note of contempt, as though we hadn’t evaluated these points before. It’s like Friends making a comeback where the opening scene sees a 50-year-old Ross yelling, “We were on a break.” Rachel understood the point first time, mate, she just didn’t accept it.

In a national domestic like Brexit, nobody wins via the presumption of ignorance or malice. This view will just make you frustrated and depressed by the idea that you’re surrounded by idiots or bastards, while the rest of us foster resentment and feel ever further estranged.

Tony Blair should accept that, though some Brexit votes were borne of malevolence, for the majority it wasn’t that we weren’t listening, we just didn’t agree.

Geoff Norcott is a comedian. He’ll soon be touring his latest show ‘Conswervative’

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