Are you familiar with Politico? No, nor me, until I noted that Suzanne Lynch, who was The Irish Times correspondent in Washington, left that paper and joined Politico as one of their staff in Brussels. I like Suzanne and not just because she chaired the launch of my book Martin McGuinness: the man I knew in Washington’s Press Club a few years back. She’s modest and smart.
All of which is a long-winded way of getting to the point: Politico has an article (by one ELENI COUREA) titled ‘Tony Blair’s new centrist project – just don’t call it a party.’ It gives considerable detail to a conference to be held on 30 June entitled ‘The Future of Britain’.
It’s being presented as a sort of think-tank event, to generate middle-of-the-road ideas for post-Brexit Britain. The idea would be that it could add some fresh thinking and intellectual weight to the British Labour Party, and steer it to the middle of the road, which is where Blair brought it and which won him three general elections.
Some people, though, are saying it’s an embryonic centrist political party, and points out that Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party came into being in a very similar way. My guess is that they’ll test the waters with this conference and see what prospects emerge.
It’s certainly going to have a heavyweight line-up, if Politico is right. It’ll be hosted by ex-BBC big shots Jon Sopel (used to be in Washington) and Emily Maitlis (used to be annihilating Prince Andrew in interview).
There are several hundred people organising the conference, and in attendance they plan to have the US economist Larry Summers, the financial journalist Martin Lewis and the former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. They have hopes to include David Milliband – remember him? – and maybe even French President Macron himself. Its advisory board includes people like ex-Tories Rory Stewart and David Gauke, ex-Labour MPs Angela Smith and Luciana Berger, and broadcaster Trevor Philips. There’s also talk of approaching Elon Musk for some funding.
Will it grow into an all-conquering party like En Marche, or will it fizzle out? Hard to say. They certainly appear to have some very big hitters in the tent or on their way to it. Tony Blair himself is, of course, a hugely talented and hugely flawed man: he was a driving force behind the Good Friday Agreement (“I feel the hand of history on my shoulder”) but also a driving force behind the invasion of Iraq, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives. But as he himself might have said, because you have a past doesn’t mean you don’t have a future. Blair is a restless, ambitious and, yes, ruthless man. Check out 30 June: you could be in at the birth of something big.
Here’s the link to the article: