Tony Blair answers the questions others try to avoid

Sunday 10th February 2019 14:00 GMT

Sadly, some politicians aim to get through an interview without giving any news lines. Needless to say, that doesn't make either interesting or informative television.

As a result, some of the most engaging interviews are with people who have the freedom of no longer being on the political frontline.

:: Blair warns of 'devastating' no-deal consequences for peace in NI

Whatever you think of his politics, Tony Blair is a refreshing person to interview because he engages with whatever questions you ask without trying to bat them away (and makes me realise how rarely that happens in the world of politics).

I've asked numerous politicians whether or not there will be a hard border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and most skirt around the issue or try to qualify their response.

Not Tony Blair (who, of course, was one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement).

"You would have a hard border, a very hard border," he told me.

"A no-deal Brexit means a really hard border between north and south in Ireland. It's contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and it will cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom."

Politicians are playing "fast and loose" with the peace process as a result, he added.

I had been under the impression that Mr Blair would be wary of getting drawn on the Labour Party, and was expecting him to be cautious when discussing antisemitism.

Yet again, however, he was frank and direct, telling me: "We're supposed to be a progressive political party.

"How can we say it's tolerable to have a certain level of antisemitism in the party?

"Would we say more generally it's tolerable to have a level of racism in the Labour Party? No. Of course you can't."

Has the leadership been robust enough, I asked.

"No," he replied. "It has not been robust enough on it, and the fact that someone like Luciana Berger, who's a smart, capable, active member of parliament doing her best for her constituents - the fact that she should even be subject to a confidence motion is shameful for the Labour Party."

Should the local constituency party be suspended - as deputy party leader Tom Watson has called for?

"I think what Tom is saying is absolutely right. I back him 100% on it," Mr Blair said.

If my social media mentions are anything to go by since I announced that Tony Blair was coming on the show, his frankness will only serve to anger his critics further.

But in a world where saying nothing is too often valued more than speaking your mind, we should at least give the former prime minister credit for trying to answer the question.

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