Blair's Labour and Johnson's Brexit

David and Helen catch up on the state of British politics, from Blair's advice to the Labour party on its 120th birthday to growing divisions in Johnson's Tory party. Is there really a liberal progressive coalition in Britain? Can Brexit deliver both free trade and levelling up? And what does Cummings really want? Plus we talk about Helen's lecture on Britain, the EU and geopolitics: Listen here →

On the 120th anniversary of the Labour Party, Tony Blair gave a speech encouraging the Labour party to 1) Move away from identity politics 2) Rebuild a progressive-liberal coalition and 3) Work out a plausible account of the future. 

  • What is Blair’s interpretation of history? 
  • Blair never reimagines the political system itself. 
  • A lot of the more compelling visions of the future are coming from the parts of the Labour party that Blair disparages. 

Blair did not substantially discuss Brexit, but Brexit is the most pressing future question

  • Can the government really reconfigure the economy? Or is the government at the mercy of forces it cannot control?

The UK will have to simultaneously negotiate trade deals with the US and the EU in a moment in which trade is becoming a more geopolitical question.  

  • China has changed things—this is now part of the lens through which the US is thinking about both trade and its relationship with the EU.
  • For the UK, using security as a bargaining chip is a risky strategy.
  • How much leverage does Macron have in the trade negotiations? He’s sounding a lot like De Gaulle, who said no to the UK application to join the EEC. 
  • The overall geopolitical context is less advantageous to Europe, including the UK, than it was in the 1960s.

Mentioned in this Episode: 

If you’re in Cambridge next Wednesday, join us for a live recording the morning after the Super Tuesday primaries. Tickets available here.

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:


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