Tony Blair Warns of Populism

As he builds a new lobbying group, Tony Blair warns of the growing desire for an authoritarian leader.

Getting into the news again, Tony Blair warns against… trends he doesn’t like. They’re endangering democracy.

Thus, USAToday reports,

Former British prime minister Tony Blair warns that political upheaval from Great Britain’s Brexit vote in June to the collapse of the Italian government on Sunday signals the most dangerous time for Western democracies in decades.

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“It does feel perilous, actually, because I think there are decisions that are being taken of vast moment in circumstances where systems are fragile,” he told Capital Download on Monday. “And that is troubling.”

It has been a year of unexpected victories by populist and nationalistic forces that are challenging the establishment: passage of the referendum pulling Britain from the European Union, the election of Donald Trump as president in the United States, defeat of a measure in Italy that prompted the prime minister to announce his resignation.

How is a majority getting what they want by voting in a national election or referendum bad for democracy? While Tony Blair warns of damage to democracy, what he is describing looks more like democracy in action.

Further down, the article attempts to justify Blair’s warning:

Of particular concern to him is a “longing” for an authoritarian leader.

“It’s amazing how many people you will find who will reference a style of leadership of (Russian) President Putin in a positive way,” he told USA TODAY’s weekly video newsmaker series. “I think people want their country moving and they think that if the present system is not moving it, and not making the changes that they want to see, then maybe someone who just says, ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks; I’m just going to go for it, and this is what I’m going to do’ — that has a certain attraction.

Blair takes resistance to irrational Russophobia and a desire to defeat terrorists rather than start World War III as if it signifies a respect for Putin’s authoritarianism. This is complete nonsense. The Italian referendum voted against giving the Prime Minister super powers to rule without the Senate. How does that show longing for an authoritarian leader?

Likewise, Brexit was about EU membership, not getting an authoritarian leaders.

Suspicions about why Donald Trump was elected do not outweigh years of resistance to Barack Obama’s rule by executive decree. Alternative media like Breitbart decried Congress giving Obama extra authority to arrange the Trans Pacific Partnership. The desire is for government that works in the national interest, not an authoritarian leader.

Blair’s recent initiative has been to get a new referendum in the U.K. regarding E.U. membership. As Nigel Farage points out, that is part of an anti-democratic platform.

Blair pretends to be a defender of democracy. Equally outrageous, he also pretends to be “the center” while all other viewpoints belong to the extremes of Left and Right.

Naturally, he blames the internet for giving voice to these “extremes.”

What’s more, “social media is a revolutionary phenomenon,” he went on. “It changes the way politics works. It changes the way the media works. If we’re not careful, it locks people into conversations with people who just agree with them, and who then have a general conspiracy-theory view of the rest of the world.”

Establishment politicians openly wish we were cut off from each other and dependent on the mainstream media for all news. Then they wonder why we respond with “a general conspiracy-theory view” of them.

It shouldn’t be hard to figure out.


Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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