Tony Blair warns against 'authoritarian populism' on launch of new thinktank
(ShareCast News) - Former prime minister Tony Blair has vowed to combat the rise of populism through his new centrist think-tank, the Institute for Global Change.
In an interview with The Guardian, Blair denied that he was returning to front-line politics with his new political entity, but promised to aid those who were under threat in the middle ground of the spectrum, in order to guard against "frightening authoritarian populism."
Last year saw the emergence of a new movement towards political extremes throughout Europe and beyond, represented by the victory of Brexit campaigners in the UK, the success of Donald Trump in the US, and the rise to prominence of Marine Le Pen's National Front in France. 2017 marks a significant year for European politics in particular, with important elections coming up in France and Germany, after Mark Rutte held off the challenge of right-wing pretender Geert Wilders in the Netherlands this week.
"An indifference to liberal democracy is starting to form in parts of Europe," Blair told the paper. "There are very worrying trends including as many as a third of young people in France saying they doubt democracy is the best form of government."
"I am going to try to play a part in the political debate. I am aware of all the problems and baggage I bring with me. The moment I even start to engage with this, I will have a phalanx of right-wing papers that are going to go into kill mode."
Blair claimed that those who drove Brexit to victory used immigration as a key rallying call, but were more interested in attempting to transform the UK economy into a "free-wheeling" machine.
"The game of these people is not ultimately about Brexit; it is about an economic experiment where they want to turn the UK, or more accurately England, into a sort of offshore, free-wheeling, free-market, free-trading hub. I think it is a right-wing fantasy, and I don't think the British people would vote for it."
The former leader of the Labour Party has been unconventionally outspoken for an ex-premier since last June's referendum, and speculation had been rife that he would make a return to the political fold in the UK in the near future.