Tony Blair sets up institute to fight populism

LONDON • Former British prime minister Tony Blair is launching a policy institute to provide "thought leadership" to politicians who are seeking to combat the rise of populism on the right and left in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

"This is not about my returning to the front line of politics. I have made it abundantly clear that this is not possible," he said in a statement on his website on Thursday. "However, I care about my country and the world my children and grandchildren will grow up in; and want to play at least a small part in contributing to the debate about the future of both."

The not-for-profit institute, which is due to start operations next year, will not be a traditional think-tank but will serve as a "platform designed to build a new policy agenda for the centre ground", Mr Blair said.

The organisation, which will include a policy unit, will combine resources from Mr Blair's initiatives related to Africa and faith. Part of the focus will be on the debate about Europe, he said, although it will be wider than that.

The not-for-profit institute, which is due to start operations next year, will not be a traditional think-tank but will serve as a "platform designed to build a new policy agenda for the centre ground", Mr Tony Blair said.

Mr Blair has been a controversial figure in Britain since he stepped down as prime minister in 2007, attracting media scrutiny for his role in taking the country into the Iraq War and over his private earnings since leaving office.

In July this year, a seven-year public inquiry criticised him for his role in the 2003 conflict. The Labour Party that he led to three election victories is now run by socialist lawmakers who have rejected his brand of centre-ground politics.

In his statement, Mr Blair said he wanted to develop "an answer to the new populism of left and right which exploits the anger and drives the world apart. This new populism may differ in some respects between left and right - the left anti-business, the right anti-immigrant - but in others, what is remarkable is the convergence between them, especially around isolationism and protectionism".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2016, with the headline 'Tony Blair sets up institute to fight populism'. Print Edition | Subscribe