Election Ghosts of the Political Past: Blair Is Back, Again
With some very un-Labour opinions.
Whoa! A Ghost? Yes, it's Tony Blair.
Damned spirit, from where hast thou appeared? Sky News, in conversation with Adam Boulton.
And what say thee, cruel spectre? "Theresa May's going to win and don't worry about voting Labour," basically.
It's one of the few rituals that retains its force in our atomised, post-modern society: Tony Blair – mercurial, liquid – seeps through the cracks of our broken present, takes the form of an ageing statesman and comments upon the society that banished him.
For the traumatised, pitchfork-wielding townspeople who chase him out every time he appears, the ritual is a negotiation between past and future: a way of reckoning with the fact that their depleted future, a world of right-wing populism and collapsing alternatives, is premised on the failure of Third Way politics. We are here because of him.
But for Blair, his increasingly sporadic appearances on the public stage, often at some anonymous international conference, surrounded by armed guards, are a way of precipitating his final return, the Second Coming, when we finally ask him to redeem a world lost to irrationality.
He seems to think that moment is now. With an election underway, and a government that's recently stated they'll try to block any attempt to prosecute him for invading Iraq, there's a new swagger in Blair's step, a greater sense of impunity.
Speaking to Adam Boulton on Sky News the former leader and still member of the Labour Party said, "We know who's going to be Prime Minister on June 9th" (i.e. Theresa May). He also failed to endorse Jeremy Corbyn, saying that a Labour victory "is not the real issue in this election".
It's a suspicious posture, struck by a man who's argued many times before that Labour, above all, needs to win elections to be able to effect change.
It comes a few days after Blair went on Radio 4 to suggest that there are situations in which it would make more sense to vote Lib Dem or even Conservative on the 8th of June if it means getting more politicians into the Commons who were sceptical of May's Brexit strategy. Although he said, "I'm not going to advocate voting tactically," this is exactly what he was doing.
Unsurprisingly, his remarks, redoubled on Sky News today, haven't gone down well with a lot of people in the Labour Party. Corbyn's spokesperson rejected the idea that it's OK to vote for anyone else other than Labour, saying there's a "clear choice" between a Tory and Labour government. Chuka Umunna, who tends towards the Blairite faction of the party, told The Guardian that "Blair is wrong to suggest in any way that voters should look elsewhere and form some anti-Brexit alliance." Others, like former Corbyn spokesperson Matt Zarb-Cousin, have pointed out that Blair's behaviour could even be enough to get him expelled from the party, whose rulebook states that "[supporting] any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate...shall be automatically ineligible to be or remain a party member".
Can we expect more hauntings over the next five weeks? Definitely. And if sightings start to increase the closer we get to election day, you'll likely hear soundings, again, from Corbyn's team that he's actively trying to undermine the Party just by opening his mouth. Even a ghost as deluded as Blair knows that he's one of the most unpopular politicians in the country.
How do we make this apparition disappear? It'll require a lot of political will and some inventive manoeuvres, but your best bet's a quick trial at the International Criminal Court.