Blair on Syria, tax and immigration

John Rentoul

26 blairiraq 225x300 Blair on Syria, tax and immigrationI didn’t have time to comment on Tony Blair’s interview with Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson in yesterday’s Times (pay wall). First, there was an update on the growing Blair staff, now 200 people in his foundations and companies. For the haters, this is Blair Inc, a secretive network of byzantine money and power. For normal people, it is a successful, tax-paying group of do-gooding and charitable ventures.

He supported arming the rebels in Syria:

We should be taking a more interventionist line. That’s where I come from in politics. People can agree or disagree with it … There are those within the Syrian Opposition who want a pluralistic society and democracy coming out of all of this — and they are the one group of people who are not being armed … You don’t have to send in troops, but the international community should think about installing no-fly zones. You’ve got to create the circumstances in which Assad is not able to change the balance of power within the struggle by the use of outside forces.

On international tax avoidance, he contradicted Ed Miliband, who told Google “if we cannot get international agreement, a Labour government will act here at home”:

It is dangerous to do it unilaterally because then someone will come and eat your lunch, to put it bluntly.

Blair refused to “moralise” about Starbucks, Amazon and Google, say Thomson and Sylvester. He said:

When members of the public look at companies and see small amounts of money being paid by huge conglomerates then they get upset. My point is, the right way to deal with that is to change the rules.

On New Labour’s tenderness towards the rich, he restated succinctly what I call the footballer doctrine:

There are always going to be times when some people do better than others in terms of financial wealth — that’s the way the world goes. Always has been, always will be. My anxiety wasn’t to stop a footballer or a pop star making a lot of money, it was to make sure that a kid on a poor estate in the inner city got a decent education and start in life …

There are two types of politics today: the politics of the anger and the politics of the answer. I prefer the politics of the answer. If you take the money off the people at the top it won’t necessarily change the nature of your society.

Finally, he was equally unapologetic on immigration:

Every major country in the world that succeeds has an immigrant population that plays an important part in bringing fresh energy and dynamism and ideas. I do not believe that the problems of the British economy are down to Polish people.

The so-called left who dislike him so much ought to praise him and learn from him on that subject, but I suppose it runs into the paradox of the politics of immigration: that the right ought to favour free movement of workers.

Picture by Andre Carrilho from today’s Independent on Sunday

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