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Blair calls Independent Group a 'fightback' against 'populism-enthralled' Labour

The former Labour leader said that Brexit had plunged Britain into “the throes of an unparalleled political crisis”.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

FORMER BRITISH PRIME Minister Tony Blair has said that resignations from Labour to form the Independent Group was a “fightback” against a populist surge.

Speaking at the Niskanen Center Conference in Washington DC yesterday, Blair gave a speech to the think-tank event under the theme ‘Beyond Left and Right: Reviving Moderation in an Era of Crisis and Extremism’.

During this speech, Blair said that “the Conservative Party membership is now morphing into something nationalistic and ideologically anti-Europe” – but also took aim at his own party, saying that “the Labour Party’s membership is in thrall to a populism of the left”.

The running sore of the past two years has been the row over anti-Semitism with Jewish Labour MPs coming under sustained attack, a truly mind-boggling circumstance for a supposedly progressive political party to find itself in.

He said that “both manifestations of populism exult in savage denunciation of those who disagree, especially within their own ranks”.

But the point is, the fight is not lost. The fightback is underway within the two main parties and outside of them, where last week several MPs defected to form a new political grouping.

Last week, nine Labour MPs including rising stars Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna left the party; seven of them formed a new House of Commons grouping, called The Independent Group.

Two days later three Tory MPs - Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry – also joined the grouping.

In a Times/YouGov poll, weighted by likelihood to vote, 38% said they would vote for the Tory party, 26% said that they would vote for Labour, and The Independent Group has already gathered 14%.

Labour’s People’s Vote

Last night, the Labour party said that it was preparing to back an amendment for a second referendum on Brexit as part of efforts to avoid an no-deal scenario.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been confused on whether to back a second Brexit vote; he previously said that he would, if it’s what his party wanted. 

In the same speech where Donald Tusk said there was “a special place in hell” for those that promoted Brexit without a plan on how to implement it, Tusk also made this comment:

I know that still a very great number of people in the UK, and on the continent, as well as in Ireland, wish for a reversal of this decision… At the moment, the pro-Brexit stance of the UK Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, rules out this question.
Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for remain. I say this without satisfaction, but you can’t argue with the facts.

Yesterday, Blair said that Brexit had plunged Britain into “the throes of an unparalleled political crisis”, and the result had led to a “bitter divide” around national identity.

Blair said that the June 2016 referendum “provided the opportunity to protest”, adding that “populists who had long campaigned for their cause of leaving Europe combined their cause with those grievances”.

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