Parliamentary democracy has not ended

The hysterical response to Tony Blair’s speech betrays the Leave campaign’s fear that they will be held to account for their campaign promises, argues Pat McFadden MP
Tony Blair knows that whenever he makes a speech there is first the “shoot the messenger” issue – those on both right and left who will not engage with what he says but will express fury at him saying anything at all.
For the right this is about trying to negate the voice of a Labour leader who beat them three times and challenged the presumption they hold of their right to rule.
For the left, some of it is about Iraq but some of it is an oppositionalist mindset that sees power only as betrayal and therefore those who have wielded it only as traitors. Better the purity of protest than the tough business of actually governing.
But shoot the messenger is a pitifully inadequate response to a serious intervention. And in any case, the issues surrounding Brexit are simply too important for people to stand on the sidelines.
So what of the substance?
Blair’s central argument was that in a democracy people have a right to change their mind. The hysterical resistance to that notion among those who led the Leave campaign is born out of fear – fear that their arguments will be exposed and that they will have to account for what comes next.
There has been some wilful distortion that in talking about imperfect information Blair was somehow insulting the voters. Not so. Instead he was making the point that no one, including the M
ministers in charge of this, can know where we will be in two years time in relation to trade, investment, the potential constitutional consequences or the security implications of the process we are about to embark on.
So yes, we accept the result of the referendum, but that does not mean giving in to the rightwing bullying that says all discussion and debate on what happens next should stop. It should not mean we give in to the distortion of patriotism that says it is undermining to the country to care deeply about the welfare of its people and its standing in the world. Parliamentary democracy has not ended. People still have a right to ask questions and hold the government to account. And in my view parliament has a right to more than a vote on the outcome but a meaningful say on its contents.
And of course, for the centre-left this is not only about Brexit itself. It is also about developing a better answer to the discontents of globalisation, to the sense many working-class communities have about being left out of the country’s economic story. We win when we offer a hopeful uplifting and credible vision of the future which commands broad working and middle-class support. We are a long way from that and there is much to do.

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Pat McFadden MP is a former shadow minister for Europe

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Comments: 7...

  1. On February 17, 2017 at 5:43 pm David Lindsay responded with... #

    Labour cannot even be bothered to issue a statement in response to him, which is quite extraordinary, when you think about it. As is the castigation of him for the Iraq War by Boris Johnson, who voted in favour of it. And the Lib Dems say that people who agree with Blair should join them. Yet they were no friends of his when he was Prime Minister, and their current Leader’s views on everything else do not chime with his in the least.

  2. On February 17, 2017 at 6:58 pm Elizabeth McIntosh responded with... #

    We are a long way from winning majority support and it is too bad the ‘centre/left’ progressive, moderates of progress are doing nothing constructive to help. They prefer to await the prince across the water returning and in the meantime snipe away.

  3. On February 17, 2017 at 8:57 pm David Jackson responded with... #

    Tony Blair’s right to say democracy requires ongoing discussions its part of it and yes those who voted had little factual information on the leave side and the remain argument was swamped by the Tories stupidity believing they could scare rather than explain. The problem for TBs argument to get any traction is most of the academic reviews tell us leave voters chose immigration and control as their main reasons to vote leave how do you change that position without going through with Brexit and giving proof to them they were lied to by their right wing leaders?

  4. On February 17, 2017 at 9:50 pm David Lindsay responded with... #

    Not least because there has never been a critical biography of him, there are all sorts of unappreciated things about Tony Blair. One is that he is a dedicated Francophile. Today, he probably sees himself as de Gaulle. But he far more closely resembles Giscard d’Estaing at Verdun-sur-le-Doubs in 1978.

    Giscard identified four elements to the French political opinion of the day: Gaullists, Communists, supporters of Mitterrand’s Socialist Party, and those whom he himself had decided to organise into the UDF, which was modestly to be named after his own most recent book. Blair’s vision is not dissimilar.

    And Giscard’s pro-European and pro-American Presidency of economic and social liberalisation may be seen as the original definition of “the centre” in those arbitrary terms. Blair’s latest initiative may well be those terms’ last stand. And his. Although we have thought that before.

  5. On February 18, 2017 at 10:35 am greg responded with... #

    But democracy is dead – and Tony Blair helped to kill it.

    Tony Blair, and the Labour party, promised the UK people a vote on an EU constitution, and reneged on that promise – changing to the Lisbon Treaty and not allowing us a say.

    People like McFadden pick up and put down democracy when it suits them.

    Hypocrite!

  6. On February 18, 2017 at 1:49 pm Geraldine Rolfe responded with... #

    Why has Tony Blair and his multi national sponsors been given access to

    the Labour Party members private e-mail records??

  7. On February 19, 2017 at 7:26 am dexey responded with... #

    “The hysterical response to Tony Blair’s speech betrays the Leave campaign’s fear that they will be held to account for their campaign promises, argues Pat McFadden MP”

    You Remainers, and Wolverhampton is beset with enough of them in its parliamentary representation despite its voters wishes, need to grasp the idea that the Leave campaign of the referendum is not the same as the current government. They owe no allegiance to what you choose to call promises.

    Tony Blair knows that whenever he makes a speech there is first the “shoot the messenger” issue – those on both right and left who will not engage with what he says but will express fury at him saying anything at all.”

    This would be because he is proven to be a self serving liar. Not a good trait in members of the public or in Prime Ministers.

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