‘Right speech, wrong person’: Yorkshire MPs react to Tony Blair’s Remain call

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair during his speech on Brexit at an Open Britain event in central London.  (Photo: PA)
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair during his speech on Brexit at an Open Britain event in central London. (Photo: PA)
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TONY BLAIR faced criticism from both sides of the Brexit divide yesterday after calling for a campaign to convince the British people to reverse their decision to leave the European Union.

The former prime minister’s call for Remain supporters to “rise up” and make the case for staying in the EU was branded undemocratic by Leave backers.

But his intervention also received a lukewarm response from some who sympathised with the sentiments of his speech.

Yorkshire Labour MEP Richard Corbett, a passionate pro-European, described it as the “right speech by [the] wrong person”.

There was also dismay among some in Labour circles that Mr Blair, who remains an unpopular figure among many voters over the Iraq War, had chosen to re-enter the political fray just days before the party defends two seats in close by-elections.

His suggestion that the “debilitation of the Labour Party is the facilitator of Brexit”, in a clear jibe at Jeremy Corbyn, earned him further rebukes from allies of the current leader.

It’s your mission to stop Brexit, Tony Blair tells Remainers

Leeds East MP Richard Burgon, the Shadow Justice Secretary, said Mr Blair was “wrong” to use his “formidable oratorical skills to argue [the] referendum shouldn’t count”.

He said Mr Blair had been “mostly right” during his time in Downing Street but several times his judgement had led to the “direst consequences”.

But the former prime minister’s defence of those who continue to make the Remain case was welcomed by Wakefield MP Mary Creagh,

She was among those on the Labour benches earlier this month to defy a three-line whip and vote against the Bill which will allow the Prime Minister to begin Brexit talks by the end of March.

She said: “I think that the people I represent will have their lives made immeasurably poorer by this decision on every level.

“They will see their public services reduced, they will see prices going up in the shops, that is already happening, and they will see pressure put on wages.”

She added: “In any democracy, especially a democracy like ours, people have the right to reflect on something and everybody has the right to change their mind.”

Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams, who campaigned for Brexit, described Mr Blair’s call for Remainers to “rise up” as “a bit rich coming from the man who, more than anyone, undermined public trust in politics”.