Yves here. Bill Black is running a series that shreds the logic of some prominent articles criticizing the Brexit vote. Just the way Blairite members of the Labour Party used the Brexit vote as the excuse for executing a long-standing plot against Jeremy Corbyn, so are other politicians and pundits using the results to anchor pet narratives.
Tony Blair, who if he had any sense of decency would disappear from politics and try to rehabilitate himself through humanitarian projects, instead is becoming a leading voice in promoting the idea that the elites need to squash populism firmly. Bear in mind that Blair has also volunteered for being the chief Brexit negotiator with the EU.
By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives
Tony Blair disgraced his office as Prime Minister and continues to disgrace it as lobbyist for murderous kleptocrats. Blair’s column claims personal credit for a series of supposed triumph, blames the BREXIT vote on the Tories, and throws Jeremy Corbyn, his successor as Labour Party leader, under the bus. The title of Blair’s article refers to the democratic vote in favor of BREXIT as a “coup,” which helps explain why he specializes in getting ever wealthier by fronting for tyrants and kleptocrats who he presents as evolving democrats. The English language is just one of the things Blair helps torture.
Blair’s central complaint is against “populism.” He is enraged that the UK voters “demonized” “the experts” who warned that BREXIT would cause an economic catastrophe. He is appalled that “the left” in the UK is appalled by the conduct of the City’s bankers that became wealthy by gutting and filleting their customers to the tune of 50 billion pounds on payment protection insurance (PPI), ran the two largest cartels in world history, made hundreds of billions of pounds in “liar’s” loans, laundered money for drug cartels, kleptocrats, and terrorists, and nations trying to develop nuclear weapons, and helped elites worldwide evade paying their taxes. The bankers’ frauds made them spectacularly wealthy and drove the financial crisis. Blair’s destruction of effective financial regulation and supervision made all of this possible. As in the United States, the elite bankers were able to become ultra-wealthy by leading these frauds and scams with complete impunity from prosecution. But Blair is appalled that “the left” wants to restore the rule of law to the City of London’s elite bankers. Blair is outraged that after the sordid record of the bankers’ crimes, abuses, and staggering incompetence the public refused to defer to those bankers as “the experts” on BREXIT.
The campaign made the word “expert” virtually a term of abuse, and when experts warned of the economic harm that would follow Brexit, they were castigated as “scaremongers.”
The political center has lost its power to persuade and its essential means of connection to the people it seeks to represent. Instead, we are seeing a convergence of the far left and far right. The right attacks immigrants while the left rails at bankers, but the spirit of insurgency, the venting of anger at those in power and the addiction to simple, demagogic answers to complex problems are the same for both extremes. Underlying it all is a shared hostility to globalization.
There first sentence of the quotation contains two clues to Blair’s ideology. The “political center” is conclusively presumed to be correct and to be “seek[ing] to represent” the poor and progressives. Neither presumption is true, as Blair’s policies proved. Blair redefined, and still defines, the “political center” as positions held by the “Red Tories.” By this he meant the abandonment of traditional Labour Party positions in favor of a wide range of traditional policies of the Tories. Blair repositioned the UK “center” far to the right.
Blair’s second sentence is the standard false equivalence – seeking to restore the rule of law to the City of London’s bankers who grew enormously wealthy by leading the frauds and abuses that caused the financial crisis and looted tens of millions of their customers is equivalent to ignoring the UK’s international obligations to refugees fleeing with their children in a desperate effort to preserve their lives from the abattoir that is Syria and instead demonizing those refugees without any judicial process. Blair’s use of “right” and “left” is also false. There are plenty of folks on the right that are appalled by the City’s bankers’ frauds and abuses and people on the left that are worried about large scale immigration. Labour voters frequently voted in favor of BREXIT despite their party’s leaders opposition to BREXIT.
Blair is in despair because it has become clear to most citizens of the UK that he and far too many political leaders represent their own self-interest. Blair is in despair because most citizens in the UK despise the bankers who made him politically powerful and wealthy while crushing the economy and view the bankers as dishonest and financially incompetent or malicious. Blair’s fundamental attack is on democracy. He implicitly claims that only people that he considers to be members of his redefined “center” are capable of devising policies worthy of enactment.
The center must regain its political traction, rediscover its capacity to analyze the problems we all face and find solutions that rise above the populist anger.
The historical reality in the UK, as in the U.S., is that many of the policies that Blair labels as “center” were enacted largely because of “populist anger.” Those policies were frequently the product of superior “analy[sis]” and “solutions” provided by people who were considered far from the “center” at the time they conducted the analysis and suggested new “solutions.” The idea that the UK “center” has the exclusive “capacity” “to analyze” and “find solutions” is preposterous and arrogant.
More basically, when there is a democratic vote decided by the majority as there was on BREXIT, the “center” wins the vote. Blair refuses to recognize the majority of UK citizens who made up the “center” on this particular issue. This is revealing because the BREXIT vote was the quintessential issue on which reasonable people, could disagree – and that includes reasonable people within the same political party. For Blair, however, the “center” of the UK voters on this issue who voted in favor of BREXIT are consigned to being extremists who are unreasonable people because they disagreed with Blair’s policy preference. This is ironic because Blair’s credo was always moving policy to the “center” of voters’ views on issues. Under his own credo he should have been leading the Labour Party towards support for BREXIT. Corbyn is facing overwhelming criticism from other party leaders, however, for not pushing Labour supporters away from the center on BREXIT. Corbyn’s strongest supporters are the young, but the young were the non-centrists on BREXIT – they were generally strong opponents of BREXIT. Again, reasonable people could and did disagree about BREXIT and the degree of support for BREXIT varied greatly along multiple demographic, geographic, class, and ideological dimensions.