The UK’s ex-Prime Minister, John Major, has lent his considerable gravitas (where’s the irony font when you need it?) to the punditry around the Brexit negotiations, urging the current Prime Minister to allow MPs a free vote to ratify the final negotiated position.
Around the same time, another ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has suggested that the peace in Ireland was being placed at risk by the Brexit negotiations and their focus around the border arrangements between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK, for those who live under a rock) and the Republic of Ireland.
This is, of course, sophistry of its purist form by both elder statesmen. Major, for example, is quite aware that the vast majority of MPs of all political hues were in favour and actively campaigned for the Remain option, despite 17 million of their constituents getting out and voting the opposite. How does he feel they will vote when offered a chance to critique the final Brexit negotiation?
Blair also is quite aware that hostilities are not going to reoccur because the UK leave the EU but because the IRA or split-off factions decide to commit violence. One absolutely does not have to follow the other, it’s a choice the erstwhile terrorist will have to make. It would be a very interesting choice too, in these post-911 days. One suspects NORAID might not be such an efficient fundraiser these days and would most likely attract unwelcome attention from the Homeland Security agencies. Certainly, the first shots in “The Troubles 2 ™” won’t be fired by British or Irish troops or police.
So why the interventions at this stage in their retirements and who exactly are they trying to persuade?
Major, for example, left office as a laughing stock, with a series of failed and insipid policies (motorway traffic cones hotline, anyone?) behind him as he handed over to Blair with a record majority.
Blair’s “New Labour”government started well, aping the economic policies of the Conservatives, managed to broker a peace deal with the IRA (at what cost, we might still ask, however) but then threw his legacy away by blindly following George W Bush into Afghanistan and, more egregiously, Iraq.
The general public in the UK have not forgotten either. In addition, the core membership of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party hold Major and Blair in contempt respectively.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider the irony of two elder statesmen calling for the sovereignty of the UK Parliament to be maintained as paramount whilst being opposed to Brexit, a policy which will return much of the power previously handed over to the European Parliament. Deep down they must both understand that their positions have a logical inconsistency, surely?
So, the question remains, who exactly are they hoping to persuade?
It’s probably a different answer for both.
Major, for example, has no grassroots support from the public or his party’s membership, his party’s MPs are likely ambivalent about him at best (many weren’t adults during his premiership) and has little credible legacy to protect from his time in office. He seems to spend a lot of his retirement at the MCC watching cricket.
It’s most likely that Major is appealing directly to the Prime Minister to allow MPs to vote on the final deal because he hopes they will moderate the extent of a divorce he’s opposed to.
Blair similarly is the recipient of little public love and is openly criticised by his party’s membership and MPs. He has, however, amassed an incredible personal wealth since leaving office from various ventures and positions within the very institutions Brexit is terminating the UK’s relationship with.
It’s most likely that Blair is virtue signalling to his European colleagues that it will be business as usual for his wife and him following Brexit; i.e. he’s reapplying for his current job.