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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  March 23, 2019 5:30am-6:01am PDT

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>> former prime nistster tony blair responds to the populism that led to donald trump and to brexit, this week on "firing line." >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible by... corporate funding is provided by... and by... ♪ >> a victorious labour prime minister at the gates of downing street. >> young, charismatic,nd optimistic, tony blair swept into power in the unitedingdom, ending 18 years of conservative governme. >> today, enough of talkin
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it is time now to do. >> his leadership style and move towards the political center often drew cparisons to what had happened on this side of the pond. >> he's seven years younger than i am and has no gray hair, so i resent it. but there doesn't seem to be .anything i can do about >> and he became the first labour prime minister to win three consecutive elections.t >> i w say this to the politicians and to the people of northern ireland. >> his time in office marked by historic peace accords in northern ireland, humatarian intervention in kosovo and sierra leone, and a strengthened friendship with the ited states. >> america has no truer friend than gat britain. [ applause ] >> blair even convind britain to go to war in iraq... >> to retreat now, i believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest. >> ...a decision that would tarnish his legacy. today, the globalism andch
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centrism hpioned are also ovrnished, with far left and far right populistents on the rise around the world. now, more than 2 1/2 years after the brexit vote, there are still no concrete plans for how britain will leave the european union. these days, blair is on a renewed mission. >> the term "centrist" is now used as an insult, and the word "moderate" indicative of some form of political malfunction. isfhis a ridiculous state o affairs?y >> what does tblair say now? very honorable tony blair, welcome to "firing line." >>hank you. >> you were the first labour leader to win three consecutivei els. your party now has morphed into a new left that seems, in many ways, diametrically opposed to the principles and the values and the rection 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 londonwatching it. >> and you were, obviously, a strong supporter of the remain campaign. were you as surprised by the results of that referendum as u were by the results of the u.s. presidential election several months laterwhen donald trump defeated hillary clinton? >> yeah, i was. i was surprised in both cases. >> even thoughou had seen many of the same forces rear their head in your country. >> you know, when i ok back on it, i think, "no. you should have realized this was coming." but i didn't. [ chuckles ] >> the work you're doing now inf the fielentrism and revitalizing the center really can't be delved into until we understandhe forces on the other side of it. so how do you define populism? >> so, populism, to me, is taking an issue that's a genuin concd exploiting it in order to create division, political enmity between people. so, i've always said to people, if you want to defeat populists, yove got to address the
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underlying grievances, because if you don't address those griences, you're just not -- you're not understanding why they're gaining support amongst the people. they ride the anger. they don'trovide the answer. >> how do you see similarities between the populism in the united states and the populism in the u.k.? do you see that there is >> yeah. sure. >> yeah. >> i mean, it's the same thing. th i mean, immigration certainly is an issue here i united states. globalization, leaving people behind -- these are some of thef economtors you've talked about. but there also is a real concern and a real anger ithis country for establishment politicians. >> yeah, absolutely. all of those things. liberal elites.'s yeah, xactly the same set of themes. >> you think about the similaries between the new left in the united kingdom and the new left, the progressive le in the united states -- bernie sanders, tiexandra ocasio-cortez -- do you see the simila there? >> yeah. the thing is -- it is a populism of the ft, 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 leftti po at the moments, which is the abolition of tuition ses, abolishing tuition f would cost us roughly £10 billion to 12 billion a ifar. had £10 billion to £12 billion to spend on education in the u.k., i'd be i spendion early-years education for the poorest families. that is a progressive policy. you know, we've got to be honest about this. the people you would help most if you abolished tuition fees, certainly in the u.k., wld be more middle-class and upper-class families. haso, you know, the debates got to be had on the left is, "what is progressive politics for e modern world?" >> the progressive left in this country really believes they have solutions beyond free college tuition for all, which is one of them, and there's the green new deal.ry it is a opular resolution on the left right now. have you had a chance to look at it? >> yeah. >> and what is your thought? >> well, you're gonna decarbonize the entire american economy in 10 years and not use market mechanisms to do it. >> sounds great, but implausible? >> when i came into govement,
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one of the first acts was to sign the kyoto treaty. we were the first government to introduce measures on climate change. i mean, i am a passionate believer in acon 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 ithat'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 0s. yeah, no, the interesting thing is -- now what she was describing, thatave of sort of leftism, has actually succeeded this time in taking over the labour party. >> has returned and is i mean corbyn wants to nationalize industry. he wants to nationalize water. he wants to nationalize rail. he wants to pull out of these arthings that were dramatically and diametrically opposed to the values and theat
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positions ou stood for. how do you understand that now? >> well, i understand it. i mean, i don't like but yosee this again right 'round the western world is the right's become captured by a sort of nationalistic, quite narrow-minded type of right-wing politics, and the left has moved further to the left. and, you know, that's characterized by t things -- a hostility to western policy, in foreign-policy terms, and in domestic terms, the debates in britain are abolish tuition fees, nationalize this, you know, socialism -- bring it and, you know, this is a big debate we're gonna have to have, because, in my view, if thebo party carries on in this way, it's gonna ally struggle to win. in the end, if you want to defeat the populism of the right, you've got to have ast tegy 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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the 21st century equivalent to the 19th century industrial revolution. it's gonna change everything. and, you know, these are the chalnges that are going to shape the future, and if we want to defeat the populism of the right, we've got to block off their attack on issues like immigration and then we've got to develop an agenda that really rises up to the scale of that challenge. >> to what extent are those grievances legitimate grievances that have reared their head in the populism that's expressed in europe and in england? >> yeah, so, i think they are legitimate. i mean, i think people haves genuine worrout immigration. i personally think managed migration is a goothing for a country like britain, but people -- we've got to be clear about this. people feel immigration has been happening without proper control. their communities are beg changed without their consent. and so there's an anxiety about this. there's an anxiety that people feel they're losing part of detheir national identity the pressure of immigration. and this is true all over europe, by theay. >> there are some policies that were implemented during your
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premiership, certainly wh respect to the eastern european countries. do you believe that that was the beginning of the anxiety around immigration? >> i think the immigration anxiety started bere. i mean, the record of my government on immigration is slightly rritten now to make it all about the european migration. actually, we took very stron measures to reform our asylum system. ouu know, when those eastern europeanries joined in 2004, it did produce a big wave of migration from eastern europe. now, i think if i'd still been 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 actuay made a pretty good contribution to british society. >> maybe you can help anie american ae 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
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anxieties that gave rise to the brexit vote you can find ally. over europe to i mean, it's the biggest political union and it's the largest commercial markein the world. we have this unique trading system. it means that you y 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,ve would there een a referendum in italy or in france or in germany, they might risksa th outcome as in the u.k.? >> yeah, absolutely. i mean, in italy and france for sure. germany, maybe not. but, no, this is why the o sensible way obrexit today is that britain thinks again and europe thinks again. i me, the smart thing is for europe to reform and britain to stay. >> is the smart thing for another referendum to happen or is the smart thing for a o re-negotiatithe terms? >> so, i think the only way you can change brexit nohrough another vote to the people.
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now, if yoleave europe and leave that trading system, it's a big adjustment for a country like britain that spent 4 1/2 decades trading within that system. that's what i call the "painful brexit." on the other hand, if you keep close to the trading system, then you abide by e rules of the europe, but you've lost your say over them, 'cause you're out of the politicalsi de-making. that's what i call the "pointless brexit." so, you've g painful versus pointless. in the end, members of parliament will think the smart thing is back to the people. >> do you anticipate that as a realistic outcome?in >> yes, i it is now realistic, yes. >> one of the grievances of populism is that there are people who have been left behind, economicallythat their plight would be worsened. how does that play politic-- >> yeah, it's a really interesting thing. s itghtly similar to the debates in america. the truth is -- the communities left bind or casualties of globalization -- it's nothing to do with europe. this de-industrializations procppened over many years. it happens as a result of technology. it happens as a result of the way the world's shifting and
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changing. you know, lower wage of costs in other countries didn't really happen because of europe. so, europe becomes a vehicle by whh people express their dissatisfaction, but, truthfully, it's not -- brexit's t the answer to any of t problems those communities face. >> how is populism a threat to beral democracy? i've heard you say it. ltmean, do you believe that populism can be,ately, a true threat to liberal democracy and to the systems? >> i think 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,w i don't knt's going to happen with brexit -- i think there's a real possibility that it can be stopped, actually. but i think if there were to be another voten britain today, it would be one for remain. >> is it clear, though, it would be for remain?el >> yeah, i personally think people, if they're allowed to think again, will think agn. if you look elsewhere in europe, you know, it's interesting. if you see presidentn in france, you know, pushed right down but now cominback because
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he's engaging with the french people, i think there are ways that we can defeat this, but if we don't defeat it and it grows, here's the risk that populism poses to democracy. in the end, it thrives on enmity. it searches for scapegoats, rather than solutions, in myre view, and ites a culture of division that if it carries on and you divide into two tribes of people who don't listen to each other, talk to each other, or like each other, your risk, at a certain point,ha ispeople say, "you shouldn't be in power." and, at a certain point, youen ay, "well, actually, we need to fix this system so that you can't get into power, because you're too dangerous to be allowed to be in power." if you go down that path, you see some elements of this reverberating around europe for yore. know, that could pose a threat to democracy, yes. >> the united kingdom and the united states represent two of
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the longest-existing representative democraciesn human history, and it seems that we're paralyzed at the moment. the united states has had theve longest ment shutdown in its history most recently. you are focused on the center and revitalizing the center. how do you begin do think about strengthen the center real political force in the center tt cohe extremes? >> you've got to get the right policy agenda for the future. o >> is y about policy, though? because how much of the expression of populism is actually about cultural issueses that arefixable by specific economic policies? >> yeah, no, that's a very good point. but here's what i think. i think that the populism part economic, part cultu i actually think the left tends to underestimate the cultural aspect of it. i think it's very powerful. i mean, you do have to deal with these cultural anxietiich immigration is obviously one. but underpinning whatever slogans and principles you come out with, policy prescriptions should be a genuine intellectual
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basis. and that's why i say, you know, the defeat of this populism will be a muscular centrism, and that derives from the policy task, which is to create a framerk for understanding the future, governing it, and makingt work for people. and that's the key so, in the end, you know, if you're not able to switch the conversation from the wall... [ chuckles ]ou know,e always going to be playing defense as a democrats. me with brexit. i mean, in the end, the way we would defeat brexit, ultimately, is by explaining to people that it's not an answer to any of th problems te 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 to bring different sides ofifferent parties together, most, you know, historically in the good friday accords. do you think that there is eveno a ssibility of being able tod drive that k consensus and deal-making today in the context of brexit?e. >> yeah, sou could do --
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>> so, how would you do that? >> theay i would try and accommodate people who voted for brexits to say to them, "look, i listened. i get it. i get what your anxiety is. and so this is my -- my idea iso ave europe make these changes around freedom of movement, around immigration. we can, ourselves, tighten our immigration system considerably, whilst understanding the benefits of managed migration, 'cause migration has done an enormous good for the country, in fact, but it's got to be managed and contlled." so, the way you build to the largest possible consensus is to take account of people's legitimate concerns, deal with them, and then show them and persuade them there is aen diffand better way. the truth is -- and all the studies show this, by the way -f brexit wilct worst those areas that voted for it largest number >> that's right. i've heard you say that one of o the jothe prime minister of the united kingdom is to get along with the united stateses ent, that that relationship is so important for
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both countries. were 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.h, >> yo, absolutely. but, you know -- but there are plenty of things that you cange work on er as countries, and you've got to do that. look, you've got to be grown upi about po 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'veot common interests. you've got to keep your relationships strong. and, you know, that's --ou shouldn't be 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 antsemitism. how do you explain the emergence of anti-semitism in the new left? >> i don't think, by the way, this is just a specificallyh britsue. i think it arises from a left
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perspective -- part of the left -- which is very anti-west. it'secome very hostile to israel, singles israel out for criticism. i mean, if you look at the whole of the middle east, you know, givewhat's happened in syria you might think that, you know, the state of israel was not the main country to be criticized. but they focus on israel in ave , very strong way. heat morphs into a form of anti-semitism ofeft. they link with islamist groups, as well. and then what comes out of that then bleeds across into a much more traditional form of anti-semitism -- you know, people tking about jewish finance and, you know, so on. and, you know, if you told me, when i was the leadehe labour party, we'd have a problem with anti-semitism, i would have just be bewdered. >> how has it become ascendant within the party, though? >> because the hard left haven taer the labour party, and with it comes these attitudes,
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i'm afraid. and part of the left is ve intolerant and, on the issue of israel, has become very extreme. and because they're anti-west, they've formed an alliance with bits of the left that are anti-west, you kno in the way that people used to do in the t0s, when people would support the soviet union, left, long after it became clear thata it was by suppressing the rights of the people. >> which actually brings me to sort of internationalism and interventionism. i mean, part of your legacy is, in kosovo and in sierra leone, a doctrine of humanitariante entionism. do you still support that theory of intervention on behalf of humanitarian crises in the way you did previously? >> yes, bui think it's hugely tempered by experience, as well, particularly post-9/11 and afghanistan and iraq, frankly, where, you know, the situation turned out to be infinitely more complicated than we assumed, ich is not to say, by the way, that non-intervention is easy. >> the right and the republican party are reallyhe
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rethinking role in international affairs, specifically vis-à-vis europe, and th really feel that europe has taken more from the relationship with the united states than the united states has gotten from it. and the argument they make is that, as aesult, it has cost us more in lives and treasure and that is turn for the united states to sit back and let europe do its own bidding. with respect to nato is the cost of the united states not as a full partr in the north atlantic treaty organization and in europe? >> well, it would be very serious if the united statesec went in that don. and this is an argument we've just got to take head on, because it's absolutely absurd. the transatlantic alliance is vital for your security, my security. we're gonna have a world in which china is gonna become a d hugeinant power. you've got resurgent russian nationalism. you know, you've got all these issues and problems in the t rld. the value system tnds america and europe together is strong, important, needs
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defending. >> how do you make that case to donald trump, who says it's cost us too much? tw well, you've got to distinguish betweeseparate things. it's perfectly legitimate to say, to european nations"you should be spending more on defense." i agree. but, you know, britain has been a strong ally of the u.s. i don't think anyone would say that we have not stood by the united states. we have. and the united states has stood and it's done us both good, actually. you know, these alliances are lightened self-interest. it's not a question of, you know, "i want to put my country first, rather than this kind of amorphous alliance." no, putting my country first means being part of this alliance. it's important that europe understands that america looking afisr its own interest, whic natural, does not mean americaig ring the importance of this bedrock alliance. america is not going to be the on center of power. by the middle of this century, you're gonna have three giants in the world.or really int people understand this. you're gonna have america, china, probably india.
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those three economies are gonna be so much bigger than thech fourth -- ne of them is gonna be so much bigger. so, this is the reason for the european union, 'cause if wet want to 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. >> we do need to make the case for liberal democracy to a new generation of people, because the idea of representative government and democraticsm capitasn't obvious, but what's obvious to a younger generation is its mediate failings. >> mm-hmm. >> so, what is the best way to do that? >> i think it's a really good point. .ou're gonna have to go back and make the case for why is rule of law important? one of the things i've become mildly obsessed by is -- i see the world, now having left office, is the importance of the rule of law, indepenedia, you know, democratic institutions. he've got to, for example, have a big debate aboutedia, 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 d,rtisan, and it's a problem, because, in the f it becomes like that and social media amplies all of that, 'cause it is itself a revolutionary phenomenon, that is going to reinforce this idea of politics splitting into so, i'm not hat the answer to that is, by the way, but it's got to become part of the slitical debate. so, you know, if yport liberal democracy, you've got to go out and make the case andot you'veo do it recognizing that, today, you can't take any of these things for granted.u ow, you're gonna have to teach a new generation. >> i just -- i don't see it ppening here. in this country, i don't see it happening. >> you know, the thing about thm popuby the way, is that it always reaches its limit, because, in the end, it kind of won't work. and to the extent it really is riding the anger with this populist wave, in the end, the people will understand it's not -- there aren't solutions.
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u know, but the most important thing -- i mean, look, without,i ay, getting into your politics, i mean, for the democrats, the big cllenge is to find someone who understands why there were people who voted for president trump anhow you can pull some of those people over to your and the chalfor the democrats will be -- do they go populism of the left to answer the populism of the right or do they try and, you know, re-create a strong center-leftti po? now, obviously, i think they should do the latter, but that's, i think,he key question for them and it will be the key question of the next presidential election, i think. >> fm your lips to god's ear [ 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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