tv Firing Line With Margaret Hoover PBS May 31, 2019 11:30pm-12:00am PDT
>> former prime ministerer tony blair responds to thed populism that donald trump and to brexit, this week on "firing li." >> "firing line with brgaret hoover" is made possible.. corporate funding is provided by... and by... ♪ >> a victoris labour prime minister at the gates of downing street. >> young, arismatic, and optimistic, tony blair swept into power in the united kingdom, ending 18 years of conservative vernment. >> today, enough of talking. it is time now to do.
>> his leadership style and move wards the political center often drew comparisons 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 it. >> and he became the first labour prime minister to win three consecutive elections. >> i want to say this to the e liticians and to the peo northern ireland. >> his time in office marked byr hi peace accords in northern ireland, humanitarian intervention in kosovo and sierra leone, and a strengthened friendship with the united states. >> america has no truer friend an great britain. [ applause ] >> blair even convinced 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 andri ce he championed are also
tarnished, with far left and far right populist movements on the rise around the now, more than 2 1/2 years after the brexit vote, there are still no concrete plans for howbr ain will leave the european union. these days, blair is on aio renewed mi >> the term "centrist" is now used as an insult, and the word "moderate" indicative of some form of political malfunction. is this a ridiculous state of affairs?t >> wes tony blair say now? very honorable tony blair, welcome to "firing line." >> thank you. >> you were the first labour leader to win three consecutive elections. your party now has morphed into a new left that seems, in many ways, diametrically 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? >> i was in london, watching it.
>> and you were, obviously, a strong supporter of the remain campaign. were you as surprised by the results of that referendum as you were by the results of there u.s.dential election several months later, when donald trump defeated hillary clinton? >> yeah, i was. i was surprised in both cases. >> evethough you had seen many of the same forces rear their head in your country. >> you know,hen 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 eld of centrism and revitalizing the center really can't be delved into until we understand the forces on the other side of it. m? how do you define popul >> so, populism, to me, is taking an issue that's a genuine ncern and exploiting it in order to create divion, political enmity between people. so, i've always said to people, if you want to defeat populists, you've got to addres underlying grievances, because 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 anger. th don't provide the answe >> 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 overlap? >> yeah. sure. >> yeah. >> i mean, it's the same thing. >> i mean, immigration certainle is an issu in the united states. globalization, leaving people behind -- these are some of the economic factors you've talked a out. but there also ial concern and a real anger in this country for establishment politicis. >> yeah, absolutely. all of those things. liberal elites.ye , it's exactly the same set of themes. >> you think about the similarities between the new left in the united kingdom and the new left, the progssive left in the united states -- bernie sanders, alexandra ocasio-cortez -- doe you see milarities there? >> yeah. the thing is -- it is a populi of the left, and the problem with it is that it doesn't have solutions to th challenges we face. it's politics that, in the end,
is a kind of protest. i mean, if you take, for example, classic for left politics at the moments, which ui the abolition of tuition fees, abolishingon fees would cost us roughly £10 billion to 12 billion a year. if i had £10 billion to £12 billion to spend on education in the u.k., i'd be ending it on 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.k., would be more middle-class and deper-class families. so, you know, thte that's got to be had on the left is, "what is progressive politics for the modern world?" >> the progressive left in this country really believes they have solutions beyond free college tuition for all, whichan is one of themthere's the green new deal. it is a very popular resolution onhe 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 io government, 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 action on climate change. passiote believer in it. but you've got to have practical policies. >> in 1977, margaret thatcr was the -- she was the opposition leader and she was on this program with william f. buckley jr. and here is her clip.
>> [ chuckles ] that takes me back. >> does it take you back or is it what's old is new? >> i mean, one part of what e 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 '7, early '80s. yeah, no, the interesting thing is -- now what she was descring, that wave of sort of leftism, has actually succeeded this time in taking over thety labour p >> has returned and is ascendant. i mean, jeremy corbyn wants to .ationalize indust he wants to nationalize water. he wants to nationalize rail. he wants to pull out of nato. these are all things that were dramatically andiametrically opposed to the values and the positions that you stood for.
how doou understand that now? >> well, i understand it. i mean, i don't like it.bu you can see 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 t.litics, and the left has moved further to the l 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 tuition fees, nationalize this, you know, socialism -- bring it back. and, you know, this is a big debate we're gonna have to have, because, in my view, if the labour party carries on in this way, it's gonna really struggle to win. in the e, if you want to defeat the populism of the right, you've got to have a strategy and a program thatlo you to win and to govern effectively. and we do need radical change today. we are going to face a technological revolution that is the 21st century equivalent to
the 19th century industrial revolution. it's gonna change everything. and, you know, these are the toallenges that are going shape the future, and if we want to defeat the populism of the right, we've got to block offta their 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 havee genurries about immigration. i personally think managed migration 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 control. their communitieare being changed without their consent. and so there's an anxiety about this. there's an anxiety that people ntel they're losing part of their national iy under the pressure of immigration. and this is true all over europeby the way. >> there are some policies that were implemented during your premiership, cerinly with
respect to the eastern european countries. do you believe that that was the beginning of the anxiety around immigration? >> i think the immigration anxiety stted before. i mean, the record of my government on immigration is slhtly rewritten now to ma it all about the european migration. actually, we took ve strong measures to reform our asylum system. you know, when thosero eastern an countries joined in 2004, it did produce a big wave of migration from eastern europe. now, i think if i'd still beenic in opost-2007, i would be looking at ways of mitigating that, though it has to be said that, in the end, these people gove actually made a prett contribution to british society. >> maybe you can help aner an audience understand the united kingdom's skepticism towards the european union. >> yeah, so, the skepticism,y the way, is europe-wide. you know, the british had a referendum, but those same anxieties that gave rise to e brexit vote you can find all
over europe today. i mean, it's the biggest political union and it's the largest commeral market in the world. we have this unique trading system. it meanshat you try and have the same rules and regulation governing commerce and trade. and that means that europe has a power thatome people feel is inconsistent with our national sovereignty. >> so, are you saying that the feelings that animated brexit, would there have been a referendum in italy or in france or in germany, they might risk the same outcome as in the u.k.? >> yeah, absolutely. i mean, in italy and france for sure. germany, maybe not. but, no, this is why thele sensay out of brexit today is that britain thinks again and europe thinks again. i mean, the smart thing is for europe to reform and britain to stay. >> is the smart thinfor another referendum to happen or is the smart thing for aot re-ntion of the terms? >> so, i think the only way youi can change bnow is through another vote to the people. no if you leave 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 ade by the rules of the europe, but you've lost your say over them, 'cause you're out of the politic decision-making. that's what i call the "pointless brexit." so, u've got painful versus pointless. in the end, members of parliament will think the smart thing is to go back to the people. >> do you anticipateas a realistic outcome? >> yes, i think it is now realistic, yes.>> ne of the grievances of populism is that there are people who have been leftic behind, econly, and that their plight would be worsened. how does that play politic-- >> yeah, it's a really interesting thing. it's slightly similar to the debates in america. the truth is -- the communities ofleft behind or casualtie globalization -- it's nothing to do with europe. this de-industrialization process happened over many years. it happens as a resu technology. it happens as a result of the way the world's shifting and changing. you know, lower wage of costs in
other countries didn't really happen because of europe. so, europe becomes a vehicle by which people express dissatisfaction, but, y uthfully, it's not -- brexit's not the answer to 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, ultimately, a true threat to liberal democracy and to these systems? >> i think it can be. stlook, i'm basically opti this populism can be defeated. and, by the way, if you take brexit as an example -- i mean, i don't know what's going to happen witbrexit -- i think there's a real possibility that it can be stopped, actually. but i think if there were to be another vote in britain today, it would be one for remain. >> is it clear, though, it would be for remain? >> well, yeah, i personally think people, if there allowed to think again, will think again. if you look elsewhere in europe, you know, it's interesting. if you see president macron in igfrance, you know, pushed down but now coming back because he's engaging th 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 my view, and it creates a cultureat of division f it carries on and you divide into two tribes of people who don't listen to each other, talk to o eaer, or like each other, your risk, at a certain point, is that people 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 dangerous to be allowed to be in power." if you go down that path, yo see some elements of this reverberating around europe for you know, that could pose a threat to democracy, yes. >> the united kingdom and the united states represent two of the longest-existing
representative democracies in human history, and it seems at we're paralyzed at the moment. the united states has had theng t government shutdown in its history most recently. you are focused on the center and revitalizing the center. how do you begin do think aboutn strengthen ther and a real political force in the center to combat the extremes? >> you've got to get the right policy agenda for the future. >> is it only about policy, though? o because how muthe expression of populism is actually about cultural issuesat re less fixable by specific economic policies? >> yeah, no, that's a very good point. but here's what i think. i think that the populism part c economic, patural. i actually think the left tends to underestimate the culturalit aspect o i think it's very powerful. i mean, you do have to deal witx these culturalties, which immigration is obviously one. but underpinning whatever slogans and principles you come out with, policy prescriptions should be a genuine intellectual 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 framework for understanding the future, governing it, and making it work for ople. and that's the key thing. and, so, in the end, you know,t if you're le to switch the conversation from the wall... [ chuckles ] k ...yw, you're always going to be playing defense as a democrats. same 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 the pr that the 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 des of different parties together, most, you know, historically in the good friday accords. do you think that there is even a possibility of being able toth driv kind of consensus and deal-making today in the context of brexit?ea >> sure. you could do -- >> so, how would you do that?
>> the way i would try a accommodate people who voted for brexit is to say to them, "look, i listed. i get it. i get what your anxiety is. and so this is my -- my idea is to have 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 de an enormous good for the country, in fact, but it's got to be managed and controlled." so, the way you build to the largest possible consensus is to take account of people'son legitimaterns, deal with them, and then show them and persuade them there is a fferent and better way. the truth is -- and all the studies show this, by the way -t orill affect worst those areas that votedt in largest number >> that's right. i've heard you say that one ofth jobs of the prime minister of the united kingdom is to get along with the united states president, that that relationip is so important for both countries. were you a prime minister today,
how would you get along with donald trump? >> well, you know, where you disagree, you disagree, and you should do so, you know, litely but clearly. >> as you know, our president can be quite ruthless. yeah, no, absolutely. but, you know -- but there are plenty of things that you canrk n together as countries, and you've got to do that. look, you've got to be grown up about politics in the end. if you're the prime nister of britain -- and, you know, we face this challenge in europe. you know, you don't always get on with the european leaders, bus.you've got common intere you've got to keep your relationships strong. and, you know, tt's -- you shouldn't be in politics if you can't work out how to do that. >> on the new left in the u., 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 t, this is just a specifically itish issue. i think it arises from a left perspective -- part of the
left -- which is very anti-west. it's become very hosti israel, singles israel out for criticism. i mean, if you look at the whole 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. but they focus on israel in a very, very strong way. that morphs into a form ofis anti-semof the left. 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, ople talking about jewis finance and, you know, so on. and, you know, if you told me, l when i was tder of the labour party, we'd have a problem with anti-semitism, i would have jusbe bewildered. >> how has it become ascendant within the party, though? >> because the hard left have taken over the labour party, and with it comes these attitudes, i'm afraid. and part of the left is very
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,ou know, in the way that people used to do in the '50s, when people would supporti the soviet, on the left, long after it became clear thatw brutally 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 humanitarian interventionism. do you still support teory of intervention on behalf of humanitarian crises in the way you did previously? >>yes, but i think it's hug 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, which is not to say, by the wayh non-intervention is easy. >> the right and the republican party are reallyin reng their role in
international affairs, specifically vis-à-vis europe, euand they really feel thape has taken more from the relationship with the united states th the united states has gotten from it. and the argument they make is th, as a result, it has co 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, what isco th of the united states not as a fl partner in the north atlantic treaty organization and in eupe? >> well, it would be very serious if the united statesth went i direction. 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 wn which china is gonna become a hugely dominant power. you've got resurgent russian nationalism. you know, you've got all these issues and problems in the world.st the value that binds nerica and europe together is strong, importands defending. >> how do you make that case to
donald trump, who says it's cost us too much? >> well, you've got tobe distinguiseen two separate things. it's perfectly legitimate to say, to european nations, "you should be spending me 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 th united states. we have. and the united states has stood by us. and it's done us both good, actually. you know, these alliances are enlightened self-interest. it's not a question of, you know, "i want to put my couny 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 after its own intereich is natural, does not mean america ignoring the importance of this bedrock alliance. america is not going to be the only center of power by the middle of this century, you're gonna have three giants in the world.al important people understand this. you're gonna have america, china, probably india. those three economies are gonna
be so much bigger than the fourth -- each one of them is gonna be so much big so, this is the reason for the european union, 'cause if went o sit at 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 democraticca talism isn't obvious, but what's obvious to a younger generations its immediate failings. >> mm-hmm. >> so, what is the best way to do that? >> i think it's a really good point. you're gonna have to go back an make the cr it. 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, independent media, you know, democrat institutions. we've got to, for example, havea a big debaut the media, as well, because there's a problem
with the media today, and we'vet got to recognis. it's becoming fragmented and partisan, and it's a problem,n because,e end, if it becomes like that and social mea amplifies all of that, 'cause it is itself a revolutionary phenomenon, that is going to reinforce this ideap itics splitting into tribes. ay, i'm not sure what the answer to that is, by thebut it's got to become part of the political debate., so, you kn you support liberal democracy, you've got to go out and make the case andyo ve got to do it recognizing that, today, you can't take any of these things for granted. you know, you're gonna have to teach a new generation. >> i just -- i don't see it happening here. in this country, i don't see it happening. >> you know, the thing about the populism, by the way, is that ia 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. you know, but the most important
thing -- i mean, look, without, as i say, getting into your politics, i mean, for the democrats, the big challenge is to find someone who undersnds why there were people who voted for president ump and how you can pull some of those people over to your side.th anchallenge for the democrats will be -- do they go for a populism of the left to answer the populism of the right or do they try and, you know, re-create a strong center-left position? now, obviously, i think they should do the latter, but that's, i think, the key question for them and it will be the key question of the next presidential election, i think. >> from your lips to gars. [ laughs ] tony blair, thank you for coming to "firing line. >> thank you. >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible by...
♪ hello, everyone, and welcomr to "am & company." here's what's coming up. at 83, legendary biographe robert caro has written a new book, and it's not his long-awaited final volume on lyndon johnson. i'll ask him why this book now. and another writer who probes the consequences of power on the psyche. i speak with israeli author and psychologist ayelet gundar-goshen. who is us? >> then america's forgotten poor nrise up in "the public," movie by actor, director, and writer emelio estevez. ♪