Ex-PM Blair eyes ‘vacant’ centre in British politics

November 21, 2016 5:52 pm
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Tony Blair “wants to continue to be part of the Brexit debate” © POOL/AFP / Stefan Rousseau

, LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 21 – Tony Blair is not planning a return to frontline politics in Britain but will speak out on Brexit from the “currently vacant” centre ground, a spokeswoman for the former prime minister said Monday.

Blair last month appealed to people who voted for Britain to stay in the European Union in a June referendum, describing them as the “new insurgents” and saying a second EU referendum was possible.

The former Labour leader has also shut down his office’s business arm and is now looking for a new base in London, prompting press speculation that he will be seeking a more domestic political role.

Blair “is not returning to frontline politics, neither is he seeking a Brexit-related role,” a spokeswoman from his organisation told AFP on Monday.

“He has given many interviews, written articles and also campaigned in the EU referendum. He wants to continue to be part of the debate, not least because the centre ground is currently vacant,” she said.

A report in the Sunday Times newspaper said Blair was planning “a pivotal role in shaping Britain’s Brexit deal by scouting out a power base” in London.

Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn take part at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London, on November 13, 2016 Services are held annually across Commonwealth countries during Remembrance Day to commemorate servicemen and women who have fallen in the line of duty since World War I. © AFP / Justin Tallis

“He’s not impressed with (Prime Minister) Theresa May. He thinks she’s a total lightweight,” a source who discussed Brexit with Blair told the paper.

“He thinks (Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn is a nutter and the Tories are screwing up Brexit,” the source said.

Blair’s spokeswoman denied he had made the comments.

Blair, who was prime minister between 1997 and 2007, is seen as a formidable political campaigner but remains deeply unpopular in Britain for his role in taking the country into the 2003 Iraq war.

Tony Blair thinks Theresa May is “a lightweight”, says a source © AFP/File / Justin Tallis

In an interview with Esquire magazine last month, the centre-left politician said it was “an open question” what his future role would be.

Blair acknowledged there had been “a huge reaction” against his brand of politics but said that centrists must fight back.

“I think it’s too soon to say the centre has been defeated,” he said. “We’ve got to rise to that challenge”.

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