Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that the toughest part of being a progressive-leaning politician these days is dealing with progressives themselves. Ironically, Blair says, activists on the left often assist their right-wing opponents by piling on the pols who lean their way rather than defending them against a conservative onslaught that he says is “vicious” and begins from “the word ‘go.’” Blair says the politics of the day can leave ostensibly left-leaning leaders like President Obama “in an isolated position,” with right-wing opponents eager to destroy them and the activist left (more often than not) happy to help.
“I love my own politics and progressives and all the rest of it,” Blair told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour in an unaired portion of his This Week interview from Sunday. “But if we have a weakness as a class, when the right get after us and attack our progressive leaders, instead of defending them we tend to say, ‘Yeah, well, really we’ve got a lot of complaints about them, too.’”
Blair said that the tendency of the left to pile on rather than defend its own leaders can leave their politicians alone to face the right wing attack machine, which Blair says is merciless. “It doesn’t matter how well intentioned you think you are,” Blair said of the right. “They’re going to go for you completely.”
“And then the interesting thing is, the progressives say, ‘Hey you’re not being progressive enough! Why don’t you do more for us?’” Blair added. “And so you can end up in quite an isolated position if you’re not careful.”
Though a reflection on his own political life as the longest-running Labour PM in British history, Blair suggested President Obama is currently in the same kind of rock-and-a-hard-place position he said he was in during his more than a decade in Britain’s top job. Blair and his reform-minded progressive-leaning government was wildly popular in the UK for years before running aground when Blair backed the American push to invade Iraq in 2003. The war, as well as Blair’s moderate-leaning tendencies, split him off from many on the left of his party and left him a controversial and disliked figure among many progressives. The decision to join America in Iraq arguably ended up costing Blair his job and, eventually, helped lead to his party’s defeat at the polls.
Blair’s comments about his own time battling the left are reminiscent of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ controversial take on the members of what he called the American “professional left,” whom Gibbs told The Hill last month were — among other things — “crazy” and not living in “reality.”
Gibbs’ comments earned him a stern rebuke from Obama’s liberal base, including more than one call for his head on a platter. But Blair suggests that the pattern of liberal attack on a progressive-leaning leader already under constant fire from the right isn’t new — and isn’t particularly helpful to any side except the conservative opposition. Blair called on Obama to “hold strong and firm to what he believes in” and stay the course in the face of mounting opposition from his own side because, as Blair said, “the strength will come through in the end.”
Watch Blair discuss the left, the right and what he says is the fallacy that liberals are more conniving than their conservative opponents: