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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  June 1, 2019 5:30am-6:01am PDT

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>> former prime minister tony blair responds to the populism that led to donald trump and to brexit, this week on "firing line." >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is madpossible by... corporate funding is provided by... and by... ♪ >> a victorious labour prime minister at the gates of downing street. >> young, charismatic, and optimistic, tony blair swept into power in the united kingdom, ding 18 years of conservative government. >> today, enough of talking.
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is time now to do. >> his leadership style and movi towards the pol center often drew comparisons to what had happened on this side of the pond. >> he's seven years younger tham nd has no gray hair, so i resent it. but there doesn't seem to be anytng i can do about it. >> and he became the first labour prime minister to win three consecutive elections. >> i want to say this to the politicians and tohe people of northern ireland. >> his time in office marked by historic peace accor northern ireland, humanitarian intervention in kosovo and sierra leone, and a strengthened friendship with the united states. >> america has no truer friend than great britain. [ applause ] >> blair even convinced britain to go to war in iraq... >> to retreat now, i believe, would put at hazard all that we ld dearest. >> ...a decision that would tarnish his legacy. t today, globalism and
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centrism he championed are alsoe tarn with far left and far right populist movements on the rise arounthe world. now, more than 2 1/2 years after the brexit vote, there are still t concrete plans for how britain will lea european union. these days, blair is on a renewed mission. >> the term "centrist" is now used as an insult, and the word "moderate" indicative of someca form of polimalfunction. is this a ridiculous state of affairs? >> what does tony blair say now? very honorable tony blair, welcome to "firing line." >> thank you. >> you were the first labourer leo win three consecutive elections. your party now has morphed into a new left that seems, in many ways, diametrically opposed to the principles and the values and the directn that you led it, culminating, finally, in the brexit referendum, in which the united kingdom will sever its relationship with the e.u. where were you on june 23, 2016?
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>> i was in london, watching it. >> and you were, obviously, a rong supporter of the remain campaign. were you as surprised by the results of that referendum as you were by the results of the u.s. presidential elec several months later, when donald trump defeatedcl hillarton? >> yeah, i was. i was surprised in both cases. >> even though you had sn many of the same forces rear their head in your country. >> you know, when i look back on it, i think, "no. hiyou should have realized was coming." but i didn't. [ chuckles >> the work you're doing now in the field of centrism and revitalizing the center really n't be delved into until we understand the forces on the other side of it. so how do you defi populism? >> so, populism, to me, is taking an issue that's a genuini concern and exng it in order to create division, political enmity between people. so, i've always said to people,w if yout to defeat populists, you've got to address the
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underlying grievances, because if you don't address those grievances, you're just not -- you're not understanding why ey're gaining support amongst the people. they ride the anger. they don't provide t answer. >> how do you see similarities between the populism in theun ed states and the populism in the u.k.? do you see that there is overlap? >> yeah. sure. >> yeah. >> i mean, it's the same thing >> i mean, immigration certainly is an issue here in the united states. globalization, leavingeople behind -- these are some of the economic factors you've talked about. but theralso is a real concern and a real anger in this country for establishment politicians. >> yeah, absolutely. all of those things. tberal elites. yeah, it's exact same set of themes. >> you think about the similarities between the new left in the united kingdom and the new left, the progressive left in th united states -- bernie sanders, alexandra ocasio-cortez -- do reu see the similarities t >> yeah. the thing is -- it is a populism of the left, anthe problem with it is that it doesn't have solutions to the challenges we face. it's politics that, in the end,
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is a kind of protest. i mean, if you take, for example, classic for leftth politics amoments, which is the abolition of tuition fees, abishing tuition fees would cost us roughly £10 billion to 12 billion a year. if i h£10 billion to £12 billion to spend on education in the u.k., i'd bear spending it on-years education for the poorest families. that is a progressive policy. you know, we've got to be honest abouthis. the people you would help most if you abolished tuition fees, certainly in the u.k., would be more middle-class and upper-class families. so, you know, the debate that's got to be had on the left is, "what is progressive politics for the modern world?" >> the progressive left in thisl country reallyves they have solutions beyond free college tuition for all, which is onef them, and there's the green new deal. it is a very popular resolution on the left right no have you had a chance to look at it? >> yeah. >> and what is your thought? >> well, you're gonna decarbonize the entire american economy in 10 years and not use market mechanisms to do it. >> snds great, but implausible? >> when i came into government,
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one of the first acts was to sign the kyoto treaty. we were the first government to introduce measures on climate changeme , i am a passionate believer in action on climate change. passionate believer in i but you've got to have practical policies. >> in 1977, margaret thatcher was the -- she was the opposition leader and she was om this progr with william f. buckley jr. and here is her clip.
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>> [ chuckles ] that takes me back. >> does it take you back or is it what's d is new? >> i mean, one part of what she was saying was, in one sense, true, which was that there was a real move to change the labour party towards the end of the '70s, early '80s. yeah, no, the interesting thing is -- now what she was describing, that wave ofort of leftism, has actually succeeded this time in taking over the labour party. >> has returned and is ascendant.or i mean, jeremyn wants to nationalize industry. he wants to nationalize water. he wants to nationale rail. he wants to pull out of nato. these are all things that were dramatically and diametrically opposed to the values and the
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positions that you stood for. how do you understand th now? >> well, i understand it. i mean, i don't like it. is but you can see gain right 'round the western world is the right's become captured by a sort of nationalistic, quite narrow-minded type of right-win politid the left has moved further to the left. and, you know, that's characterized by two things -- l hoy to western policy, in foreign-policy terms, and in domestic terms, the debates in britain are abolish tuition fees, nationalize this, you know, socialism -- bring it back. and, you know, this is a big debate we're gonna he to have, because, in my view, if the labour party carries on in this way, it's gonna real struggle to win. in the end, if you want to defeat the populism of the right, you've got to have a d rategy and a program that allows you to win govern effectively. and we do need radical change today. we are going to face a technological revolution that it
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the entury equivalent to the 19th century industrial revolution. it's gonna change everything. and, you know, these a challenges that are going to shape the future, and if wwant to defeat the populism of the right, we've got to block off etheir attack on issues l immigration and then we've got to develop an agenda that really rises up to the scale of that challenge. >> to what extent are thoseie nces legitimate grievances that have reared their head in the populism that's expressed in europe and in england? >> yeah, so, i think they are legitimate. i mean, i think people have genuine worries about immigration. i persally think managed migration is a good thing for a country like britain, but people -- we've got to be clear about this. people feel immigration has been happening without proper control. their communities are being changed without their consent. and so there's an anxiety about this. there's an anxiety that people feel they're losing part of their national identity under the pressure of immigration. d this is true all over europe, by the way. >> there are some policies that were implemented durur
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premiership, certainly with respect to the eastern europeanr cos. do you believe that that was the beginning of the anxiety around immigration? >> i think the immigration anxiety started before. i mean, the record of my government on immigration is slightly rewritten n to make it all about the european migration. actually, we took very strong measures to reform our asylum system. you know, when those eastern european countries joined in 2004, it did produce a big wave of migration from eastern i think if i'd still been in office post-2007, i would be looking at ws of mitigating that, though it has to be said that, in the end, these people have actually made pretty good contribution to british society. de maybe you can help an american audience tand the united kingdom's skepticism towards the european union. >> yeah, so, the skepticism, by the way, is europe-wide. you know, the british had a referendum, but those same
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anxieties that gave rise to the brexit vote you can find all over europe today. i mean, it's the biggest political union and it's the largest commercial market in the world. we have this unique trading system. it means that you try and ve the same rules and regulation governing commerce and trade. and that means that europe has a power that some people feel is inconsistent with our national vereignty. >> so, are you saying that the feelings that animated brexit, would there have bee referendum in italy or in france or in germany, they might riskco the same o as in the u.k.? >> yeah, absolutely. i mean, in italy and france for sure. germany, maybe not. but, no, this is why the sensible way out of broday is that britain thinks again and europe thinks again. i mean, the smarthing is for europe to reform and britain to stay. >> is the smart thing for another referendum to happen or is the smart thing for a re-negotiation of the terms? y >> so, i think the only u can change brexit now is through other vote to the people
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now, if you leave europe and leave that trading system, it's a big adjustment for a country like britain that spenttr 4 1/2 decadeing within that system. that's what i call the "painfulr it." on the other hand, if you keep close to the trading system, then you abide by the rules of the europe, but you've lost youa say over them,e you're out of the political decision-making. that's what i call the "pointless brexit." so, you've got painful versus pointless. in the e, members of parliament will think the smart thing is to go back to the people. >> do you ancipate that as a realistic outcome? >> yes, i think it is now vaalistic, yes. >> one of the gres of populism is that there are people who have been left behi, economically, and that their plight would be worsened. how does that play politic--h, >> yt's a really interesting thing. it's slightly similar to the debates in truth is -- the communities left behind or casualties of globalization -- it's nothing t do wrope. this de-industrialization process happened over many years. it happens aa result of technology. it happens as a result of the way the world's shifting and
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changing. you know, lower wage of costs in other countries didn't really happen because of europe. so, europe becomes a vehicle by which people express their dissatisfaction, but,, truthful's not -- brexit's not the answer to any of the problems those communities face. >> how is populism a threat to liberal democracy? i've heard you say it. i mean, do you believe that populism can be, ultimately, a l true threat eral democracy and to these systems? >> i think it can be. look, i'm basicay optimistic this populism can be defeated. and, by the way, if you take brexit as an example -- i mean, i don't know what's going to happen with brexit -- i think there's a real possibility that it can be stopped, actually. re but i think if tere to be another vote in britain today, it would be one for >> is it cthough, it would be for remain? >> well, yeah, i personally think people, if they're allowed to think again, will think again. if you look elsewhere in europet you know interesting. if you see president macron in france, you know, pushed right down but now coming backecause
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he's engaging with the frenchpe le, i think there are ways that we can defeat this, but if we don't defeat it and it grows, here's the risk that populism poses to democracy. in the end, it thrives on enmity. it searches for scapegoats,n rather tlutions, in my view, and it creates a culture of division that if it carries on and you divide into two tribes of people who don't listen to each other, talk to each other, or like each other, your risk,t a certain point, is that people say, "youou n't be in power." and, at a certain point, youel then say, actually, we need to fix this system so that you can't get into power,ca e you're too dangerous to be allowed to be in power." if you go down that path, you see some elements of thisar reverberatinnd europe for sure. you know, that could pose a threat to decracy, yes. >> the united kingdom and the united states represent two ofes
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the loexisting representative democracies in human history, and it seems that we're paralyzed at the moment. hue united states has had the longest governmentown in its history most recently. you are focused on the center and revitalizing the center. how do y begin do think about herengthen the center and a real political force inenter to combat the extremes? >> you've got to get the right policy agenda for the future. >> is it only about policy, though? becaushow much of the expression of populism is e tually about cultural issues that are less fixa specific economic policies? >> yeah, no, that's a very good point. but here's what i think. i think that the populism part economic, part cultural. i actually think the left tends to underestimate the cultural aspect of it. i think it's very i mean, yoave to deal with these cultural anxieties, which immigration is obviously o. but underpinning whatever slogans and principles you come out with, policy prescriptionssh ld be a genuine intellectual
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basis. and that's why i say, you know, the defeat of this populism will be a muscular centrism, and that derives from the policy task, which is to create a framework for understanding the future, governing it, and making it work for people. and that's the key thing. and, so, in the end, you know, ifheou're not able to switch conversation from the wall... [ chuckles ] know, you're aloing to be playing defense as a democrats. same with brexit. i mean, in the end, the way we would defeat brexit, ultimately, is by explaining to people that it's notswer to any of the problems that the country faces, ich, of course, it isn't >> one of the things about your premiership is that you ares known as tnsummate deal-maker. you were able to bring different sides of differentarties together, most, you know, historically in the good friday ou think that there is even a possibility of being able to drive that kind of consensus and deal-making day in the context of brexit? >> yeah, sure. you could do --
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>> so, how wou you do that? >> the way i would try and accoodate people who voted f brexit is to say to them, "look, i it. i get what your anxiety is. and so this is my -- my idea iso to have make these changes around freedom of movement, around immigration. we can, ourselves, tighten our immigration system considerably, whilst understanding the befits of managed migratio 'cause migration has done an enormous good for the country,s in fact, but it to be managed and controlled." so, the way you build to the largest possible consensus is to take account of people's letimate concerns, deal wi them, and then show them and persuade them there is att different and way. the truth is -- and all the studies show this, by the way -- brexit will affect worst those areas that voted for it in largest number >>hat's right. i've heard you say that one of the jobs of the prime minister of the united kingdom is tget along with the united states president, that that relationship is so importa for
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both countries. were you a prime minister today, how would you get along with donald trump?ou >> well,now, where you disagree, you disagree, and you should do so, you know, politely but clearly. >> as you know, our esident can be quite ruthless. >> yeah, no, absolutely. but, you know -- but there are plenty of things that you can work on together as countries, and you've got to do that. look, you've got to be grown up about politics in the end. if you're the prime minister of britain -- and, you know, we face this challenge in europe. you know, you don't always get on with the european leaders, but you've got commointerests. you've got to keep your relationships strong. and, you know, that's -- you shouldn't be in politics if you hacan't work out how to do >> on the new left in the u.k., there is a troubling emergce of anti-semitism. how do you explain the emergence of anti-semitism in the new left? >> i don't thi, by the way, this is just a specifically british issue. i think it arises from a left
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perspective -- part of the left -- which is very anti-west. it's become very hostile to israel, singles israel o for criticism. i mean, if you look at the whole of the middle east, you know, given what's happened in syria, you might think that, you know, the state of israel was not the main country to be criticized. but they focus on israel in a very, very strong way. th morphs into a form of anti-semitism of the left. they link with islamist groups, as well. and then what comes out of that then bleeds across into a much re traditional form of anti-semitism -- you know, people talking abo jewish finance and, you know, so on. and, you know, if you told me, when was the leader of the labour party, we'd have a problem with anti-semitism, i would have just be bewildered. >> how has it become ascendant thin the party, though? >> because the hard left have taken over the labour party, and with it comes these attitus,
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i'm afraid. and part of the left is very intolerant and, on the issue of israel, has become very extreme. and because they're anti-west, they've formed an alliance with bits of the left that are anti-west, you know, in the y that people used to do in the '50s, when people would support the soviet union, on the left, long after it became clear that it was brutally suppressing the rights of e people. >> which actually brings me to sort of internationalism and interventionis i mean, part of your legacy is, in kosovo and in sierra leone, a doctrine of humanitarian interventionism. do you still sport that theory of intervention on behalf ofma tarian crises in the way you did previously? >> yes, but i think it's hugely tempered by experience, as well, particularly post-9/11 and afghanistan and iraq, frankly, where, you know, the situation turned out to be infinitely more complicated than we assumed, ioich is not to say, by the way, that non-interveis easy. >> the right and the republican party are really
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rethinking their rol international affairs, specifically vis-à-vis europe, and they really el that europe has taken more from the relationship with the united states than the united states has gotten from ar. and thment they make is that, as a result, it has cost us more in lives and treasure and that is turn for the united states to sit back and let europe dits own bidding. with respect to nato, what is the cost of the unittes not as a full partner in the north atlantic treaty organization and in europe? >> well, it would be veryni serious if thed states went in that direction. and th is an argument we've just got to take head on, because it's absolutely absurd. the transatltic alliance is vital for your security, my security. we're gonna ve a world in which china is gonna become a hugely dominant power. you've got resurgent russian tionalism. you know, you've got all these issues and problems in the world. thvalue system that binds america and europe together is strong, important, needs defending.
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how do you make that case to donald trump, who says it's cost us too much? >> well, you've got to distinguish between two separate things. it's perfectly legitto say, to european nations, "you should be spending more on defense." i agree. but, you know, britain has beeno a ally of the u.s. i don't think anyone would say that we have not stood by the united states. we have. and the united states has stood by us. and it's done us both good, actual you know, these alliances are enlightened self-interest. uit's not a question of, know, "i want to put my country first, rather than this kind of amorphous alliance no, putting my country first means being part of this allian it's important that europe understands that america looking after its owinterest, which is natural, does not mean america ignoring the importance of this bedrock alliance. america is not going to be the only center of power. th the middle of this century, you're gonna have giants in the world. really important people understand this. you're gonna have americ china, probably india.
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those three economies are gonna be so much bigger than the fourth -- each one of them is gonna be so ch bigger. so, this is the reason for the abropean union, 'cause if we want to sit at the with the giants and not get sat on by them, we've got to band together. the china-america relationship will be crucial to the way this century develops. it's better for america to have a strong europe alongside it. >> we do need to make the casemo for liberal acy to a new generation of people, because the idea of representative bvvernment and democratic capitalism isn'tus, but what's obvious to a younger generation is its immediate failings. >> mm-hmm. >> so, what is the best way to do that? >> i think it's a really good point. you're gonna have to go back and make the case for it. why is rule of law important? one the things i've become mildly obsessed by is -- i see the world, now having leftmp office, is thetance of the rule of law, independent media, you know, mocratic institutions. we've got to, for example, have a asg debate about the media
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well, because there's a problem with the media today, and we've got to recognize this. it's becoming fragmented and partisan, and it's aem, because, in the end, if it becomes li that and social media amplifies all of that, 'cause it is itself a revolutionary phenomenon, that g going to reinforce this idea of politics splittto tribes. so, i'm not sure what the answer to that isby the way, but it's got to become part of the political debate. soyou know, if you support liberal democracy, you've got to go out and make the case and you've got to do it recognizing that, today, you can't te any of these things for granted. you know, you're gonna have to teach a new generati. >> i just -- i don't see it happening here. in this country, i don't see it happening. k >> yw, the thing about the impulism, by the way, is that it always reaches its, because, in the end, it kind of won't work. and to the extent it really is riding the anger with this populist wave, in the end, the people will understand it's not -- there aren't solutions.
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you know, but the most importan, thing -- i mook, without, r i say, getting into your politics, i mean, e democrats, the big challenge is to find someone who understands why there were people who voted for president trump and how you can pull some of those people over to your side. and the challenge fo democrats will be -- do they go for a populism of the left to swer the populism of the right or do they try and, you know, re-create a strong center-left position? now, obviously, i think they d shouthe latter, but that's, i think, the key question for them and it will be the question of the next presidential election, i think. >> from your ls to god's ears. [ laughs ] tony blair, thank you for coming to "firing line." >> thank you. >> "firing line with maaret hoover" is made possible by...
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