Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on registered Labour Party voters to break ranks and vote Tory or Liberal Democrat in the upcoming general election, further challenging Jeremy Corbyn’s troubled leadership over the main opposition party.
In an interview with BBC on Sunday, Blair said the issue of getting more members of parliament who could oppose Prime Minister Theresa May’s possible hard Brexit deal was now “bigger than party allegiance.”
“The absolutely central question at this general election is less who is the prime minister on June 9, and more what is the nature of the mandate,” he said.
“Otherwise frankly this is a steamroller election – is it possible that we can return as many members of parliament as possible to parliament that are going to keep an open mind on this Brexit negotiation until we see the final terms.”
Last week, May called for snap general elections to gain a stronger mandate for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The request was approved by the Tory-dominated parliament, as the House of Commons voted 522 to 13 to pass the motion.
The election will be held on June 8, nearly a year after 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the European Union (EU). The current parliament will dissolve on June 3.
Return to politics
Blair, who was elected PM three times as Labour leader, has positioned himself to join forces with Lib Dems against May, indicating a comeback to politics.
“I look at the British political scene at the moment and I actually almost feel motivated to go right back into it,” he told BBC on Sunday.
When asked whether he was encouraging people to vote for Lib Dems as his new party, Blair gave an evasive answer.
“What I’m advocating may mean that. It may mean voting Labour. It may mean, by the way, that they vote Tory, for candidates who are prepared to give this commitment,” he argued. “This is something that’s bigger than party allegiance, in this particular election.”
The former premier, who risks indictment over his role in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, insisted that he “will always vote Labour.”
Blair’s comments prompted outrage on social media, with some party members calling for him to be fired for backing rival candidates in breach of the party’s rule-book.
“On 9 June, we will either have a Labour government or a Tory one. If you want Brexit to be used to turn Britain into a low-wage tax haven, vote Tory. If you want a Britain for the many not the few after Brexit, vote Labour. The choice is clear,” said a Corbyn spokesman.
Corbyn, who is struggling to close a wide popularity gap with the ruling Tories, has pledged to turn the page and win the vote.
Anyone who wants to avoid another disastrous four years of austerity should put aside their differences.
How many times did Theresa May or her aides deny the possibility of a snap general election? Enough to make it clear that she has no problem telling lies.
Her cynical decision to call an election should be a warning to all of us. May has seized upon a moment when Labour is polling poorly and there is still enough inner-party division to potentially hand the Tories a sweeping victory. Once she has this, Theresa May will set about driving exactly the kind of Brexit that she wants through Parliament, without argument and without accountability.
May is a perfect example of why public trust in politicians is low, making U-turns on key issues (like Brexit) with impunity and delighting in saying one thing then doing another – all in the name of pure self-interest.
On 8 June, I will be casting my ballot for Labour and for Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn has proved to be a man of his word. Since becoming an MP in 1983, his principles remain virtually unchanged. He has championed the rights of women and LGBT people, campaigned for peace and diplomatic solutions, fought against inequality, and found himself on the right side of history time and time again, voting against the Iraq War and campaigning to end Apartheid in South Africa. No moats or duck houses for Jeremy, instead he was the lowest expenses claimer in the country in 2010, after spending just £8.70 on an ink cartridge.
More importantly, Corbyn is fronting a set of common-sense election pledges that will benefit wider society, not just the frosting of privilege on the top. Britain needs a government that will commit to providing affordable housing, full employment and cheap, efficient public transport. We need leadership that will take initiative when it comes to the environment, by investing in carbon-neutral solutions and green technology, and creating jobs while they’re at it. We need to tackle inequality by providing free, high-quality education for every single child, not just those born into more fortunate circumstances
I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a country where rich people can’t decide to just not pay their taxes in full, because they can afford an army of slippery accountants who exploit loopholes in the law. I want tackling violence against women and girls to be a priority, as two women in Britain are killed every week by a current or former partner. I want to be part of a Britain where no one dies because they’re hungry and their benefits were sanctioned, or they were found ‘fit for work’ when they have serious mental health problems.
Theresa May became leader of the Conservative party because all the other contenders in a panicky, post-referendum leadership race simply dropped out. Corbyn was elected leader in a landslide victory, attracting thousands of new members to the Labour party. He was challenged in an unprecedented second leadership election, and again emerged victorious.
However, it’s Corbyn who faces the ire of the British media, and has received incredibly hostile coverage since he assumed leadership of the party. The character assassination of Corbyn has come from all angles, not just from traditionally right-wing publications, but also from more liberal outlets like the Guardian and New Statesman. Even the BBC has been accused of bias against Corbyn. The onslaught of dismissive or downright vicious coverage makes the mocking of Ed Miliband for chowing down on a bacon sandwich seem minor.
It’s Corbyn who is portrayed as weak and incompetent, as someone who people cannot get behind, despite energising thousands of supporters and attracting people who had previously been cynical about politics. Corbyn’s determination and resolve in the face of these media attacks, coupled with open dissent from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), shows strength of character that I’m not sure many of us would be capable of replicating in his situation.
Perhaps it would’ve been better, and easier, if Corbyn had stepped down before the snap election was called, and allowed a candidate to assume leadership who was unsullied by the constant, exhausting drip, drip of negative news articles. It would be foolish to assume that Jeremy Corbyn is the only person who can lead the Labour party on a solid platform that benefits ordinary working people and reverses the damage done by the Tories’ failed austerity programme.
However, it’s too late for a change in leadership. Every single person who wants to avoid another disastrous four years of austerity under a Conservative government should be putting aside their differences and rallying behind Corbyn. He has served as an MP and as the Leader of the Opposition with honesty, decency, and strength in the face of overwhelming adversity. The least we, as the electorate, can do is vote based on the policies he is putting forward, not on a skewed image presented by an increasingly partisan media, largely owned by vested interests.
A vote for Labour is a vote for ordinary working people, for a strong NHS, for quality education for all, and for economic growth that doesn’t come at the expense of the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of society. Whatever the Lib Dems, Greens or even the sad, silly remnants of UKIP say, Labour is the only credible option for keeping the Tories out.
Come June 8, will you cast your ballot in support of May’s lies, or will you choose a man who behaves with honesty and honour? I know which one I’ll pick.
Harriet Williamson is a writer, intersectional feminist, and mental health ambassador, based in Manchester. She has been published by Vice, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Buzzfeed and others
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, speaks to the public during an election campaign visit in the centre of Crewe April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday he could suspend British involvement in air strikes against Syria if he was elected prime minister at a June 8 election.The veteran peace campaigner, whose Labour Party is around 20 points behind the ruling Conservatives in opinion polls, set out his position on a range of security and foreign policies, saying he would look again at Britain’s nuclear deterrent and was against using nuclear weapons.
His comments were pounced upon by the Conservatives, who said that Corbyn posed a threat to British security and was the best reason “for sticking with the strong leadership of (Prime Minister) Theresa May”.
Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that he believed that “the only solution in Syria is going to be a political one”.
“I want us to say ‘Listen, let’s get people around the table quickly’ and a way of achieving that – suspending the strikes, possibly.”
The leftist leader, whose views on foreign policy have often been at odds with those held by other lawmakers in his party, also said he would have to consider whether he would authorize a drone strike against the leader of Islamic State to limit civilian casualties.
May, who said she had called the early election to shore up support for her divorce plan with the European Union and heal divisions in the country, looks set to win a large majority, with some polls putting support for her party at 50 percent.
Backtracking on his previous opposition to negotiating with the crumbling Brussels bloc, the President softened his stance after individual EU member states rejected attempts by his officials to start talks on separate trade agreements.
According to the Times, German chancellor Angela Merkel managed to convince Trump at a private dinner last month that striking a deal between the US and EU would be simpler than he thought.
A senior German politician told the newspaper: “Ten times Trump asked her if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany.
“Every time she replied with: ‘You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU.’
“On the element refusal, Trump finally got the message: ‘Oh, we’ll do a deal with Europe then.’”
The move comes after Merkel convinced Trump it would be easy to strike a deal with the EU
Boris Johnson said in January Britain would be “first in line” for a trade deal with the US
But this “realisation” led the Trump administration to believe a trade deal with the EU would be more important to US interests than a post-Brexit deal with Britain, according to a top White House official.
The news comes in stark contrast to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s claims in January, where after meeting Trump’s advisers claimed Britain would be “first in line” for a trade deal.
The EU is America’s biggest trading partner, with US exports to the bloc last year worth $270billion, and imports worth $417billion.
However, in the same period, the US exported just $55billion in goods to Britain and imported $54billion.
The developments now mean a new deal could be struck between the US and the EU – but reportedly could also mean a resurrection of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Trump made scrapping the agreement a key pledge during his presidential campaign last year, but officials have allegedly claimed the White House has softened its position on the deal
Theresa May’s Conservative Party has launched its general election bid with a fresh scaremongering campaign, arguing that unless Tories prevail, Vladimir Putin will win.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already become a prominent figure in Britain’s upcoming general election, having been dragged into the pre-election debate by the Tories.
Facing widespread public criticism for not having a clear Brexit strategy and constantly implementing austerity measures, the Conservative Party has resorted to the now globally-tested method of using Vladimir Putin as a bogeyman to win more votes.
Earlier this week, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Russia’s president would welcome a Labour Party victory.
Speaking at an event to mark the deployment of 800 British troops in Estonia as part of a NATO mission in the region, Fallon claimed that a “feeble and gutless” Corbyn plays into the hands of Moscow.
“Russia will be watching Labour’s feebleness that Jeremy Corbyn has not supported this deployment. He has questioned it. He has questioned this deployment.
“Russia will be watching that, will have noted that feebleness and will be watching it throughout this campaign,” the Defence Secretary said.
This rhetoric echoes an accusation made by Tory Armed Forces Minister Mike Penning, who claimed that Corbyn was in some way collaborating with the Russian government.
“The Labour leader would rather collaborate with Russian aggression than mutually support Britain’s NATO allies,” Penning said, referring to Labour’s concerns that further NATO deployment on Russia’s borders could escalate tensions.
In addition to accusing the main opposition leader of being in bed with the Kremlin, the Tories also warn that Vladimir Putin could try to hack the British elections in order to prevent the Conservative Party from winning.
For instance, Fallon made the unsubstantiated suggestion that Russian intelligence services will try to influence the upcoming elections through hacking, while at the same time assuring that the British security agencies are fully prepared for any cyberattacks.
“We took steps before the 2015 election to protect our systems against Russian interference, including our democratic systems.
“Those protections remain in place and we will obviously be watching for any of the kind of interference we have seen in continental elections and is alleged to have taken place in the American election but we are well protected,” Fallon said.
GCHQ, Britain’s cyber-intelligence agency, which is subordinate to Tory Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, made a show of going on high alert less than 24 hours after Theresa May announced the upcoming general election to fend off Russian cyberattacks.
“It is understood that GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre will be working with the Cabinet Office to deliver a safe election so the same thing does not happen here as happened in America,” a Whitehall source told the Times, referring to allegations that Russia had hacked the 2016 US elections to aid Donald Trump.
However, the report by the US intelligence community said that, even if the alleged Russian involvement had taken place, it could not make judgment as to whether it had affected the outcome of the American presidential elections.
Western establishment parties have consistently accused Russia of rigging elections in favor of its opponents, but the Russian government has staunchly denied these claims as “baseless and amateurish.”
Unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed that Vladimir Putin has a personal “personal beef” against her, and thus ordered a cyber-attack on her election campaign.
Richard Ferrand, the campaign manager for Emmanuel Macron, a liberal candidate in France’s presidential election, has also argued that Putin is hacking his boss’s campaign.
“These attacks are coming from the Russian border,” Ferrand said.
“We want a strong Europe. That’s why we’re subject to attacks on our information system from the Russian state,” he said.
It’s already clear that the British general elections will not be exempt from the same anti-Russian scaremongering rhetoric, which critics say is an attempt to divert attention from the real issues.
Unless the BBC takes firm disciplinary action against Nick Robinson for this, they cannot keep pretending that the UK any longer holds free and fair elections. For a state broadcaster to show this level of venom and bias against the opposition leader is utterly unacceptable.
It is indisputable that Robinson’s history is as a high ranking Conservative Party activist. They dominate BBC News, as a plain matter of fact. They have changed the culture of the BBC so they no longer feel any need to disguise their Tory cheerleading.