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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  March 22, 2019 11:30pm-12:00am PDT

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>> former prime ministster tony blair responds to the populism that led to donald trump and to brexit, this week on "firing line." >> "firing line withrg maet hoover" is made possible by... e corpornding is provided by... and by... ♪ >> a victorious labour prime minister at the gates of. downing street >> young, charismatic, and optimistic, tony blair sweptow into p in the united kingdom, ending 18 years of conservative government. >> today, enough of talking.
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it is time now to do.p >> his leadersyle and move towards the political center often drew comparisons to what had happened on this side of the pond. >> he's seven years younger than si am and has no gray haii resent it. but there doesn't seem to be anything i can do about it. >> and he became the first ecbour prime minister to win three consecutive ons. >> i want to say this to the politicians and to the people of northern ireland. >> his time in officed by historic peace accords in northern ireland, humanitarian intervention in kosovo andsi ra leone, and a strengthened friendship with the united states.>> merica has no truer friend than great britain. [ applause ] >> blair even convinced britain to go to war in iraq... >> to retreat now, i believe,t would hazard all that we hold dearest. >> ...a decision that would tarnish his legacy. today, the globalism and
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centrism he chpioned are also tarnished, with far left and far right populist movents on the rise around the world. now, more than 2 1/2 years after the brexit vote, there are stilr no ce plans for how britain will leave the isropean union. these days, blain a renewed mission. >> the term "centrist" is nows used insult, and the word "moderate" indicative of some form of potical malfunction. is this a ridiculous state of affairs? >> what does tony blr say now? very honorable tony blair, welcome to "firing line." >> thank you. w >> ye the first labour leader to win three consecutive s.ecti your party now has morphed into a new left that seems, in manyri ways, diamlly opposed to the principles and the values and the direction that you led it, culminating, finally, in the brexit referendum, in which the united kingdom will sever its relationship with the e.u. where were you on june 23, 2016?
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>> i was in london, watching it. >> and you were, obviously, a strong supporter of the remain ou as surprised by the results of that referendum as heu were by the results of u.s. presidential election several months later, when donald trump defeated hillary clinton? >> yeah, i was. i was surprised in both cases. >> even though you had seen many of the same forces rear their head in your country. >> you know, when i look back on it, i think, "no. you should have realized this was coming." but i didn't. [ chuckles ] >> the work you're doing now in the field ofentrism and revitalizing the center really can't be delved into until we understand the forces on the other side of it. so how do you define populism?ul >> so, pm, to me, is taking an issue that's a genuine concern d exploiting it in order to create division, , i've always said to people, if you want to defeat populists, you've got to address the underlying grievances, because
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if you don't address those grievances, you're just not -- you're not understanding why they're gaining support amongst the people. they ride the ange they don't provide the answer. >> how do you see similarities e tween the populism in the united states and pulism in the u.k.? do you see that there is overlap? >> yeah. sure. >> yeah. >> i mean, it's the same thing. >> i mean, immigration certainly is an issue here in th united states. globalization, leaving people behind -- these are some of the economic ftors you've talked about. but there also is a real concern and a real anger in this country for establishment politicians. >> yeah, absolutely. all of those things. liberal elites. yeah, it'sxactly the same set of themes. >> you think about the similarities between the new left in the united kingdom and the new left, the progressive left in the united states -- bernie sanders, alexandra ocasio-cortez -- do you see the similariti there? >> yeah. the thing is -- it is a populism of the left, and the problem with it is that it doesn't have solutions to the challenges we face. it's politics that, in the end,
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is a kind of protest. i mean, if you take, for example, classic for left politi at the moments, which is the abolition of tuition fees, abolishing tuition fees would cost us roughly £10 billion to 12 billion a year. if had £10 billion to £12 billion to spend on education in the u.k., i'd be spending ion early-years education for the poorest families. that is a progressive policy.e you know, wet to be honest about this. the people you would help most if you abolished tuition fees, certainly in the u.k., would be more middle-class and upper-class families. so, you know, the debate thas got to be had on the left is, "what is progressive politics for the modern world?">> he progressive left in this country really believes they have solutions beyond freen college tuitr all, which is one of them, and there's the green new deal. it is a veryopular resolution on the left right now. have you had a chance to look at it? >> yeah. >> and what is your thought?'r >> well, ygonna decarbonize the entire american economy in 10 years and not uset maechanisms to do it. >> sounds great, but implausible? >> when i came into government,n
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of the first acts was to sign the kyoto treaty. we were the first government to introduce measures oate change. i mean, i am a passionate believer in action on climate change. passionate believer in it. but you've got to have practical policies. >> in 1977, margaret thatcher was the -- she was the opposition leader and she was on is program with william f. buckley jr. and here is her clip.
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>> [ chuckles ] that takes me back. >> does it take you back or is it what's old is new? >> i mean, one part of what she was saying was, in one sense, true, which was that there was a real move to change the labour party towards the end of the '70s, early '80s., yeah, e interesting thing is -- now what she was describing, that wave of sort of leftism, has actually succeeded this time in taking over the labour party. >> has returned and is ascendant. i mean, jere corbyn wants to nationalize industry. tehe wants to nationalize he wants to nationalize rail. he wants to pull out of nato. these are althings that were dramatically and diametrically opposed to the values and the
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positions thatou stood for. how do you understand that now? >> well, i understand it. i mean, i don't like it. but you can see this again right 'round the western world is thee right'me captured by a sort of nationalistic, quite-m narrded type of right-wing politics, and the left has moved further to the left. and, you know, that's characterized by two things -- a hostility to western policy, in foreign-policy terms, and in domestic terms, the debates in britain are abolish tuitional fees, natie this, you know, socialism -- bring it back. and, you know, this is debate we're gonna have to have, because, in my view, if the labo party carries on in thi way, it's gonna really struggle to win. in the end, if you want to defeat the populism of the right, you've got to have a sttegy and a program that allows you to win and to govern effectively. and we do need radical change today. we are going to face a technological revolution that is
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t the 21st century equival the 19th century industrial revolution. ngit's gonna change everyt and, you know, these are the challenges that are going to shape the future, and if we want to defeat the populism of the t right, we've gblock off their attack on issues like immigration and then we've got develop an agenda that really rises up to the scale of that challenge. >> to what extent are those grievances legitimatvances that have reared their head in the populism that's expressed il europe and in d? >> yeah, so, i think they are legitimate. i mean, i think people have genuine worries immigration. i personally think managed migration is a good thing for a country like britain, but people -- we've got to be clear about this. people feel immigration has been happening without proper contro their communities are being changed without their consent. and so there's an anxiety about this. there's an anxiety that people feel they're losing part of their national identity unde the pressure of immigration. and this is true all over europe, by the way.e >> there are slicies that were implemented during your
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premiership, certainly with spect to the eastern european countries. do you believe that that was the nning of the anxiety around immigration? >> i think the immigration anxiety started before. i mean, the record of my government on immigration is slightly rewritten now to make it all about the european migration. actually, we took very strong measures to reform our asylum system. you know, when those eastern european couries joined in 2004, it did produce r big wave of ion from eastern europe. now, i think if i'd sten in office post-2007, i would be looking at ways of mitigating that, though it has to be said that, in the end, these people have actually made a pretty good contribution to british society. >> maybe you can help an american audiee understand the united kingdom's skepticism towards the european union. >> yeah, so, the skepticism, by the way, is europe-wide. you know, the british had a referendum, but those same anxieties that gave rise to the
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brexit vote you can find all over europe today. i mean, it's the biggest political union and it's the largest commercial market in the world. we have this unique trading system. it means that you try and have the same rules and regulation governing commerce and trade. and that means that europe has a power that some people feel is inconsistent with our national sovereignty. >> so, are you saying that the feelings that animated brexit, would there haveeen a referendum in italy or in france or in germany, they might risk the sa outcome as in the u.k.? >> yeah, absolutely. i mean, in italy and france foru . germany, maybe not. but, no, this is why the sensible way out obrexit today is that britain thinks again and eupe thinks again. i mean, the smart thing is for europe to reform and britain to stay. >> is the smart thing forot r referendum to happen or is the smart thing for a re-negotiation othe terms? >> so, i think the only way you can change brexit now ishrough another vote to the people. now, if you leave europe and
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leave that trading system, it's a big adjustment for a country ke britain that spent 4 1/2 decades trading within that system.ha that'si call the "painful brexit." on the other hand, if you keep close to the trading system, then you abide by the rules of e europe, but you've lost your say over them, 'cause you're out of the political decisi-making. that's what i call the "pointless brexit." so, you've got painful versus pointless. in the end, members of parliament will think the smart thing is to back to the people. >> do you anticipate that as a realistic outcome? >> yes, i thinit is now realistic, yes. >> one of the grievances of populism is that there are people who have been left behind, economically, anthat their plight would be worsened. how does that play politic-- >> yeah, it's a really interesting thing. it's sghtly similar to the debates in america. the truth is -- the communities left behind or casualties of globalization -- it's nothing to do with europe. this de-industrialization process ppened over many years. it happens as a result of technology. it happens as a result of thewa the world's shifting and
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changing. you know, lower wage of costs in other countries didn't reallyha en because of europe. so, europe becomes a vehicle by which people express their dissatisfaction, but, truthfully, it's not -- brexit's not the answer to any of the problems those communities face. >> how is populism a threat to liberal democracy? i've heard you say it. i mean, do you believe that populism can be, ultately, a true threat to liberal democracy and to these systems? t >>nk it can be. look, i'm basically optimistic this populism can be defeated. and, by the way, if you take brexit as an example -- i mean, i don't know wt's going to happen with brexit -- i think there's a real possibility that, it can be stopctually. but i think ifhere were to be another vote in britain today, it would be one for remain. >> is it clear, though, it would be for remain? >> wel yeah, i personally think people, if they're allowed to think again, will think again. urif you look elsewhere ine, you know, it's interesting. if you see president macn in france, you know, pushed right down but now coming back because
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he's engaging with the french people, i think there ys that we can defeat this, but if we don't defeat it and it grows, here's the risk that populism poses to he end, it thrives on it searchescapegoats, rather than solutions, in my view, and it crees a culture of division that if it carries d on and yide into two , ibes of people who don't listen to each othlk to each other, or like each other, your risk, at a certain point, is thapeople say, "you shouldn't be in power." and, at a certain point, you then say, "well, actually, we need to fix this system so that you can't get into power, because you're too dus to be allowed to be in power." if you go down that path, you e some elements of this reverberating around europe for sure. yoknow, that could pose a threat to democracy, yes. >> the united kingdom and the s unittes represent two of
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the longest-existing representative democracies in human history, and it seems that we're paralyzed at the moment. the united states has had the longest govement shutdown in its history most recently. you are focused on the center and revitalizing ther. how do you begin do think about strengthen the center and real political force in the center to combathe extremes? >> you've got to get the right policy agenda for the future. >> is it only about policy, though? because how much of the tupression of populism is actually about cl issues that are less fixable by specific economic policies? >> yeah, no, that's a very goodo t. but here's what i think. i think that the populism part economic, part cultural. i actually think the left tends to underestimate the cultural aspect of k it's very powerful. i mean, you do have to deal with these cultural anxieties, ich immigration is obviously one. w but underpinnitever scogans and principles you come out with, policy pptions should be a genuine intellectual
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basis. and that's why i say, you know,t the def this populism will be a muscular centrism, and that derives from the policy task, which is to create a framework for understanding the future, governing it, and making it work for people. and that's the key thing. an so, in the end, you kno if you're not able to switch the conversation from the wall... [ chuckles ] know, youe always going to be playing defense as a democrats. same with brexit. mean, in the end, the way we would defeat brexit, ultimately, is by explaining to that it's not an answer to any of the problems that e country faces, which, of course, it isn't. >> one of the things about your premiership is that you are known as this consummate deal-maker. you were able toring different sides of different parties together, most, you know, historically in the erod friday accords. do you think that is even a possibility of being able to drive that kind consensus and deal-making today in the context of brexit? >> yeah, sure.ou could do --
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>> so, how would you do that? >> the way i would try and accommodate people who voted for brexit is to say to them, "look, i listened. i get it. i get what your anxiety is. m and so this -- my idea is to have europe make these changes around freedom of movement, around immigration. we can, ourselves, tighten our immigration system considerablyt whnderstanding the benefits of managed migration, 'cause migration has done anmo en good for the country, in fact, but it's got to be managed and controlled." so, the way you build to the lergest possible consensus is to take account of pe legitimate concerns, deal with them, and then show them and persuade them there is a differenand better way. the truth is -- and all the studies show this, by the way -- brexit will afct worst those areas that voted for it in largest number >> that's right. i've heard you say that one of the jobs othe prime minister of the united kingdom is to get along with the united states present, that that relationship is so important for both countries.we
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you a prime minister today, how would you get along with donald trump? >>ell, you know, where you disagree, you disagree, and you should do so, you know, politely but clearly. >> as you know, our president can be quite ruthless. >> yeah,o, absolutely. but, you know -- but there are plenty of things that you can work on togeer as countries, and you've got to do that. look, you've got to be grown up about politi in the end. if you're the prime minister of britain -- and, you know, we face this challenge in europe. you know, you don't always get on with the european leaders, but you've got common interests. you've got to keep your relationships strong. and, you know, that's -- yout should in politics if you can't work out how to do that. >> on the new left in the u.k., there is a troubling emergence of anti-semitism. how do you explain the emergence of anti-semitism in the new left? >> i don't think, by the way, this is just a specifically british issue. i think it arises from a left
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perspective -- part of the left -- which is very anti-west. it's become very hostile to israel, singles israel out for criticism. i mean, if you look athole of the middle east, you know, given what's happened in syria, you might think that, you know, the state of israel was not the main country to be criticized. o but they focisrael in a ve, very strong way. that morphs into a form of anti-semitism of theeft. they link with islamist groups, as well. and then what comes out of thato then bleeds into a much more traditional form of anti-semitism -- younow, people talking about jewish finance and, you know, so on. and, you know, if you told me, when i was the leader ofhe labour party, we'd have a problem with anti-semitism, i would have just be bewildered.ow >>as it become ascendant within the party, though? >> because the hard left have taken er the labour party, and with it comes these attitudes,
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i'm afraid. and part of the left is very intolerant and, on the issue of israel, has become very extremee anuse they're anti-west, they've formed an alliance with bits othe left that are anti-west, you know, in the way that people used to do in the '50s, when people would support the soviet union, on t left, long after it became clear that it was brutay suppressing the rights of the people. >> which actually brings me tote sort of ationalism and interventionism. i mean, part of your legacy is, in kosovo and in sierra leone, a doctrine of humanitarian inteentionism. do you still support that theory of intervention on behalf of humanitarian crises way you did previously? >> yes, but i think it's hugely tempered by experience, as well, particularly post-9/11 andir afghanistan an, frankly, where, you know, the situation rned out to be infinitely more complicated than we assumed, waich is not to say, by th that non-intervention is easy. >> the right and there blican party are really
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rethinking their role in international affairs, specifically vis-à-vis europe, and they really feel that europe has taken more from the relationship with the united states than theha united stategotten from it. and the argument they make is that, as a result, it has cost us more in lives and treasure and that is turn for the anunited states to sit bac let europe do its own bidding. with respect to nato, wh is the cost of the united states not as a full partner in the north atlantic treaty organization and in europe?>> ell, it would be very serious if the united states went in that direcon. and this is an argument we've just got to take head on, subecause it's absolutely . the transatlantic alliance is vital for your security, my security. we're gonna have a world in which china is gonna become a hugely dinant power. you've got resurgent russian nationalism. you know, you've got all these issues and problems in the world. the value system that nds america and europe together is strong, important, needs defending.
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>> how do you make that case to donald trump, ys it's cost us too much? >> well, you've got to distinguish between twseparate things. it's perfectly legitimate to say, to european nations, "you should be spending more on defense." i agree. but, you know, brita been a strong ally of the u.s. i don't think anyone would say that we have not stood by the ited states. we have. and the united states has stood by us. and it's done us both actually. you know, these alliances are lightened self-interest. it's not a question of, you know, "i want to put my countryt first,r than this kind of amorphous alliance." no, putting my country firstrt means being f this alliance. it's important that europe understands that america lking after its own interest, which is natural, does not mean america igsring the importance of t bedrock alliance. america is not going to be the only center of he middle of this century, you're gonna have three giants in the world. really impornt people understand this. you're gonna have america, china, probably india.e
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those thonomies are gonna be so much bigger than the fourth -- eachne of them is gonna be so much bigger. so, this is the reason for the european union, 'cause if we want to sit the table with the giants and not get sat on by them, we've got to band together. the china-america relationship will be crucial to the way this century develops. it's better for america to have a strong europe alongside it.d >> we do n make the case for liberal democracy to a newra geon of people, because the idea of representativend governmentemocratic capitalism isn't obvious, but what's obvious to a younger generation is its immediate failings. >> mm-hmm. >> so, what is the best way to do that? oo>> i think it's a really point. you're gonna have to go back and make the case for it. y is rule of law important? one of the things i've become mildly obsessed by is -- i seed, the woow having left office, is the importance of the rule of law, independentedia, you know, democratic institutions.t we've , for example, have a big debate about the media, as
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well, because there's a problem with the media today, and we've got to recognize this. it's becoming fragmented and partisan, and it's a problem, because, in the end,f it becomes like that and social media amplifies all of that, 'cause it is itself a revolutionary phenomenon, that is going to reinforce dea of politics splitting into tribes. so, i'm not surehat the answer to that is, by the way, but it's got to become part of the political debate. so, you know, if you sport liberal democracy, you've got to go out and make the case and you've goto do it recognizing that, today, you can't take any of these things for granted. you ow, you're gonna have to teach a new generation. >> i just -- i don't see it happening here.y, in this coun don't see it happening. >> you know, the thing about the populismby the way, is that it always reaches its limit,n because,e end, it kind of won't work. and to the extent it really iser riding the aith this populist wave, in the end, thel people wderstand it's not -- there aren't solutions.
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tau know, but the most imp thing -- i mean, look, without, as iay, getting into your politics, i mean, for the democrats, the big challenge is to find someone who understands why there were people who voted for president trump and how you can pull some of those people over to your side. and the challengfor the democrats will be -- do they go for populism of the left to answer the populism of the righr o they try and, you know, re-create a strong center-left ?ositi now, obviously, i think they should do the latter, but that's, i think, the keyqu tion for them and it will be the key question of the next presidential election, i think. >> from your lips to god's ears. [ laughs ] tony blair, thank you for coming to "firing line." thank you. >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible by...
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