Blair vs. Neil: party politics need to leave the ref debate

The Andrew Neil Show featured an interview with former Prime Minister Tony Blair. My initial impressions of Mr Blair were not positive. Perhaps this was because I had only seen photos of Mr Blair whilst he was in office, but I was shocked by how much he had aged and was looking increasingly more like his satirical cartoons.

Mr Blair appeared to be shrunken in his chair, uncertain of his response when he was asked if the Act to delay Brexit beyond the 31st of October was robust enough. Although I have never been a fan of Mr Blair, I agree with his point that Brexit should not be decided through a general election. General elections and referendums are two separate things and it appears to be confusing to the electorate. I fully agree that if you have an election where the central argument is surrounding Brexit, then we are making our decision too heavily influenced by one issue.

As a country we are too consumed by Brexit, so consequently other issues facing the country are being left by the wayside. Therefore, if we are going to ask the electorate a question, it needs to be asked in a format which will be understood. We cannot have a general election whilst there is so much debate surrounding Brexit as it will be treated like a second referendum. On the flip side, if we are given a second referendum then it needs to be treated as separate from a general election and party politics should not come into play.

However, Parliament and the government have made it clear that they don’t want another referendum. We are leaving the EU and there is no chance of changing that now, but we surely need to have a say in the circumstances in which we leave. When people voted for Leave in the referendum, it was not under the pretenses of leaving without a deal. That decision has been made for us. We cannot disregard what the electorate have said they want, but we cannot ignore that three years have passed and circumstances have changed. However, a referendum isn’t possible with Johnson’s government.

Neil commented that he doesn’t see the route towards another referendum, that that path isn’t clear. He’s right. He doesn’t see the path because it is overgrown with party politics and it is winding and rocky. However, that path does exist, and it should be recognised by the government.


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Jess Barrett

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June 2022
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