Tony Blair: I Don't Think There Is A Way Politically To Beat "Insurgent Movement Of Populism"


MSNBC: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair weighs in on the Brexit vote, why the case to stay in the EU was overwhelming, Donald Trump and how insurgent movements change politics. Transcript, via MSNBC:

BRZEZINSKI: Do you see any parallels, some are saying they see a parallel with what's going on here in America with Donald Trump and the support he's getting and what your country has just gone through.

BLAIR: Yeah I think there are parallels between your politics and our politics. But this happens all over the world right now. You get these insurgent movements of populism, left and right. An insurgent movement of populism took my political party over in the UK for example. So we in a sense went for the Bernie Sanders model OK? Now we're also in turmoil as a result of this result (PH). And a lot of the same types of themes you can see in your campaign as well.


SCARBOROUGH: It's been 25 years; the new Democrats came to power here. New Labor under your leadership. The intellectual argument seemed to be won for globalization. Visceral argument seems to be in worse shape. Would you agree with that? And how do you bridge that?

BLAIR: Yeah, no I think that's absolutely right. I think the people like myself who are in the center ground of politics and who think that center left and center right can cooperate and work together. Who don't like this sort of insurgent populism because we think it's not really going to deliver for the people, I think there's a big responsibility on us in the center to get our act together. And to work out radical but serious solutions to the problems people face. Because otherwise what happens is someone comes along and says, I'll fix it. And you say well how are you going to fix it? And they say I'll fix it.


BLAIR: And you see that left, you see that right. And in the end, you know, those of us who've been through government and know what it's like, know it's not that simple. OK? But I think the center ground have got to become the people of change again and not the guardians of the status quo. And that is the weakness it comes to in our campaign. You can see it in your politics, you can see it everywhere.


SCARBOROUGH: You've spent time at Yale over the past several years talking to students. I want you to educate us here today. Pretend you're talking to your Yale class and explain what's happening in Western democracies. Why is it that the elites in Washington, in New York, in London, why are we, I'll say we, so disconnected from the rest of the country?

I always talked about Donald Trump's campaign. And nobody thought he was going to win. I had to drive to a wedding in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I got west of Nyack, I walked into a Target, I looked around for three minutes, I got on the phone and I called Mika and I said, "Donald Trump is going to win." And we're all in our bubbles.

Why is it, how is it that elites in Britain missed this coming just like the elites in America missed Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?

BLAIR: Yeah it's a really good point. I'm tempted to say if I could figure it out completely I'd be running again.


SCARBOROUGH: But that's not true is it?

BLAIR: No it's not going to happen. I think it is two things. I think people think their incomes have been flat lining for a long period of time. They feel that the next generation's opportunities are not going to be--

BRZEZINSKI: That's it.

BLAIR: And improvement. So and I also think that social media then allows insurgent movements to gain scale at speed.


BLAIR: And so it's a combination of these movements are therefore (INAUDIBLE) very real reasons. And that's why I say the elite looks out of touch because it's kind of saying; look we'll manage all this for you. You know, we know best. We'll sort it all out for you. And then because people believe that doesn't meet their case for change and they want real change, social media and the way the relationship between people can come into a sense of belonging very quickly, that then is itself a revolutionary phenomenon. You see this around the world.


BLAIR: I mean it's not; you could go to literally any European country and have the same discussion.

SCARBOROUGH: And you could sit at home for two days sweating over an op-ed that you were going to put in a newspaper. Place it in the newspaper and then somebody puts out a 140-character tweet and--


SCARBOROUGH: Or a blog competing on the same level. And you're right social media picks up at such a pace that it almost over emphasizes the power of--

BLAIR: Right.

SCARBOROUGH: Sometimes arguments that aren't fact-based.

BLAIR: So what I don't know is whether there is a way politically that you can beat away these, some of these populist movements because in the end I don't think they really do provide answers. They ride the anger. But they don't really have the answers. Or whether this is an experiment we're just going to have to go through first.

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