Euan McColm: Cries of ‘war criminal’ ignore valid point made by Tony Blair

Tony Blair garners an emotional response across social media if he takes any kind of public stance on the issues of the day. Picture: Getty
Tony Blair garners an emotional response across social media if he takes any kind of public stance on the issues of the day. Picture: Getty
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It should not be left to the maligned former Prime Minister to spell out the negative impact Brexit will have, says Euan McColm

Whatever your opinion of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, you couldn’t possibly doubt the thickness of his hide.

Reviled by many (especially among the membership of the Labour Party he once led), if Mr Blair decides to make any kind of public pronouncement, he can expect to provoke real - if often incoherent - rage. Twitter feeds and Facebook pages twinkle with a million little “Tony Bliars”; the words “war criminal” echo across cyberspace.

The upshot is that whatever subject Mr Blair may have raised, the discussion soon turns to whether the former Prime Minister should be in prison or not. Lots of furious men think he should be.

This is unfortunate for two reasons. First, it’s tiresome. The screeching fury chimps of the internet jungle might writhe in righteous ecstasy but they don’t add a whit to our better understanding of anything. And, second, it can prevent the discussion of serious issues. Some people - and I count myself among them - think Mr Blair is worth listening to on any number of subjects.

Mr Blair’s intervention in the Brexit debate at the weekend brought the expected responses. Who is this war-mongering, Tory-loving scumbag to tell us that breaking links with our closest partners in Europe might not be a smart idea? Why should we care about what Mr Blair says while he continues not to be on trial at the Hague?

Supporters of the current, general election-losing Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, were especially furious. Though it doesn’t take much with that lot, does it?

The points the former PM was trying to make about the folly of Brexit lie, twitching in the dust, crushed to within an inch of their lives by yet another rammy over the sort of man he might be.

More than a year after the UK voted by 52-48 to leave the European Union, it’s become quite clear that the Government has no great plan of action to make this a successful - or even bearable - process.

Hardline Eurosceptics - such as Brexit Minister David Davis - look increasingly exposed as it becomes ever clearer that the UK has no cards worth playing. Mr Davis yesterday went into the second round of Brexit negotiations saying it was time to “get down to business”. This will have been greeted with cheers by fans of politicians saying meaningless things but the rest of us might ask what exactly Mr Davis plans to achieve once business has been got down to.

We live in the most extraordinary times, when the leaders of the UK’s two largest political parties are united in promising to deliver to the nation an objective that they and many of their most senior, most experienced colleagues believe will be harmful, at best, if not downright disastrous.

The people have spoken, say MPs, and then they carry on aiding a process with which they fundamentally disagree.

The spivs, ideologues and racists who allied to campaign for Brexit look upon the chaos they have created and blame those who believe departure from the EU will be a mistake. If only Remoaners would get on board, they say, things would be going so much more smoothy. If only broadcasters could be a bit more patriotic…

And that’s where we are on this seismic change in the order of things: Brixiteers won the battle and now they blame remainers for Brexit being rubbish. It’s beyond stupid. We’re living in an idiocracy. We deserve the pain Brexit will cause if we just let it happen.

Younger voters are more likely both to be in favour of EU membership and to support the Labour Party yet from this “radical” new generation we hear hardly a peep about Jeremy Corbyn’s pitifully weak position of going along with whatever the Government says.

Prime Minister Theresa May is driving a train towards a concrete wall and instead of trying to pull the brake, Mr Corbyn wishes to advise on exactly which part of the edifice she should aim for.

Assorted flyboys wished us to believe during the referendum campaign last year that any warning of a downside to departure from the EU was part of a cynical project fear strategy designed to intimidate voters into deciding to remain.

Now, with job losses on the cards and an inept UK Government steering us out of the common market and into a bleak, solitary future, it seems that project fear was actually project cold hard reality.

Before his intervention was drowned out by shrieks of outrage over his presence in public, Mr Blair said it was wrong to rule out - as negotiations proceed - a situation where the UK remains inside a reformed Europe.

Surely that makes sense? Surely it would be foolish to go into negotiations without leaving as many options open as possible.

The 48 per cent of voters who wished the UK to remain inside the EU have been very badly served by politicians who once campaigned to remain. Meek capitulation to the Government, regardless of concerns about the consequences of Brexit, by Labour has made Her Majesty’s opposition an irrelevance in the process to come.

I daresay Tony Blair could do without the sort of abuse he gets when he emerges from the background. The truth is that he shouldn’t have had to speak up.

Those senior MPs - of every party - who believe the current Brexit negotiations are going to end in a disaster for Britain should be shouting their concerns instead of conspiring to do what they believe to be the wrong thing.