Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Tim Farron: yes, I’ve held talks with Tony Blair. He’s great at coalitions

What is Tony Blair playing at? Our permatanned former Prime Minister recently declared himself to be closer to the Liberal Democrats than his own party due to his position on Brexit. “Unique circumstances demand a unique response,” he said, so Labour voters in certain seats “should cross party lines” and vote for Liberal Democrats – in the cause of Remain. Might the love be reciprocated? Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, was on the Andrew Marr show today and he was asked about whether he had met Blair told discuss such an alliance. He fessed up.

“Several months ago I met with Tony Blair at his request. I thought it was only courteous to do so. I have many on the record disagreements with Tony Blair not least over the illegal and counterproductive war in Iraq. But I do admire Tony Blair for one thing in particular, and that is his ability to put together a small-c coalition that was able to win a general election and defeat the Conservatives in 1997. I admire progressives – and he is, broadly a progressive – who are able to win elections. If you cannot win, you cannot change people’s lives.”

One of the many subplots running in this general election campaign is whether Brexit might trigger a realignment, whether Labour moderates might seek some kind of merger or alliance with Liberal Democrats. Tony Blair personally tried to do such a deal with Paddy Ashdown ahead of the 1997 general election (which, in the end, was not needed due to Labour’s stonking majority). It looks like Blair is, now, just as keen on signing up Mr Farron . This might explain the suspicious activity we’re seeing from Blair, Peter Mandelson etc at the moment: that they’re on manoeuvres. Might they be using Brexit as a pretext for creating a new New Labour, a reverse takeover of the Liberal Democrats? Stranger things have certainly happened.

PS I was reviewing the papers on Marr with Owen Jones and Rachel Johnson – who was posing, below, with the leader of her newly adopted party.

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