Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Tony Blair Fights Growing Populism With New Policy Institute

  • Ex-U.K. PM plans to combat Brexit, anti-business ‘anger’
  • Gives $10 million from business work to Tony Blair Institute

Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is to put 8 million pounds ($10 million) from his business earnings into a new policy institute as he seeks to help “center ground” politicians combat the rise of populism on the right and left.

Tony Blair, former U.K. prime minister, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 45th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 21-24. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg  *** Local Caption *** Tony Blair

Tony Blair

“This is not about my returning to the front line of politics. I have made it abundantly clear that this is not possible,” Blair 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 Tony Blair Institute will not be a traditional “think tank” but will serve as a “platform designed to build a new policy agenda for the center ground,” he said. The organization, which will include a policy unit, will combine resources from Blair’s other initiatives, including his programs on Africa and faith relations. Part of the focus will be on the debate about Europe, he said, though it will be wider than this.

Blair’s office said in a separate statement that he would be transferring ownership of Windrush Ventures Ltd., the main company running his business interests, to the institute and “gifting the entirety” of its reserves, around 8 million pounds. Blair will be the sole owner and executive director of TBI and he will not receive any salary or remuneration for the role.

Controversial Figure

Blair has been a controversial figure in the U.K. since he stepped down as prime minister in 2007, attracting continuing criticism for his decision to take the country into the Iraq War and scrutiny of his private earnings. In July, a seven-year public inquiry criticized Blair for his role in the 2003 conflict, while the Labour Party, which he led to three election victories, is now run by socialist lawmakers who have rejected his brand of center-ground politics.

In January, Windrush Ventures reported operating profit of 2.6 million pounds for the year through March 2015, up from 812,000 pounds a year earlier. 

In his statement, Blair said he wants 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, in what is an essentially closed-minded approach” to globalization, he said.

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