UK Politics

Tony Blair Institute 'to focus on making globalisation work'

Tony Blair Image copyright PA

Tony Blair has announced he is setting up an institute to provide "thought leadership" to politicians and governments around the world.

The former prime minister said this would oppose "the new populism" and its "essentially close-minded approach to globalisation".

He emphasised that he would not return "to the front line of politics", as it was "clear that this is not possible".

Mr Blair also called criticism of his business interests "inaccurate".

The former Labour leader, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007, has featured more prominently in political debate recently, including saying the option should be kept open of a second referendum on Brexit.

This has led to speculation - increased when he announced he was closing most of his commercial operations to focus on philanthropic work - of a comeback.

'Social media plague'

But, in a statement announcing the formation of The Tony Blair Institute, he said: "This is not about my returning to the front line of politics. I have made it abundantly clear that this is not possible.

"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 institute would not be a think-tank, he said, but somewhere "to build a new policy agenda for the centre ground together with the networks which link people up, and allow a reasonable and evidence based discussion of the future which avoids the plague of social media-led exchanges of abuse".

Mr Blair said: "It is a platform for engagement to inform and support the practising politician. It is what I know I would want were I still in the frontline of politics."

The past six months had seen "political earthquakes in the UK with Brexit and the American election" and an "explosion in populist movements" around Europe.

He said: "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 globalisation and its benefits and to international engagement."

Mr Blair has faced criticism over his companies, but he said the money made had provided the "financial infrastructure" to fund his charitable and philanthropic projects.

He said: "We built up a successful business side, though attracted a large measure of criticism for it, much of it inaccurate. It was entirely necessary to build the business to help with the funding to grow the organisations."

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