The future of democracy, particularly in a post-Ukraine-war world, was the main subject of a conversation between former prime minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair and Executive Editor of Kathimerini Alexis Papahelas at the Delphi Economic Forum on Friday. Blair highlighted several issues that democratic societies must overcome but was optimistic that democracies will be reinvigorated in the face of adversity.
“We will get a significant resurgence of support for democracy,” said Blair, adding that “democracies will rediscover a belief in their own system,” particularly in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, he believes that democratic societies, and the West in particular, have to improve in several areas.
“The challenge is efficacy,” Blair said.
Blair stressed that democracies must be more efficient and consistent over a long period of time. He observed that policies often swing violently from side to side depending on the ruling party, trapped in what he believes are archaic divisions of state and market, creating societal difficulties but also confusing the West’s external allies.
“Middle ground politics is the right place to be,” he said.
To that end, Blair also spoke of the dangers of populism. He stressed that politicians should improve the way the engage with their citizens, stating that they need to challenge them and not simply follow trends. Blair stressed that leadership is still valued by voters, rewarding those who remain steadfast in their position irrespective of what is written on social media.
“One of the first lessons you learn is that those that shout the loudest do not deserve to be heard most,” Blair said.
The former Labour leader particularly warned of the dangers of “cultural wars,” pointing particularly to the situation in the United States. He believes that the escalation in enmity between the two major parties has led to a situation where the opposition has been “demonized,” undercutting their legitimacy and leading to significant dangers for democracy.
“Trust the leader who is telling you what you do not want to hear,” he advised the audience, suggesting that those who have easy solutions to very complicated problems are often trying to pander to the electorate.
Blair also looked to the West’s global standing and suggested that we have to realize that we are in a new world, where if the West wants to protect and advance our ways of life it will need a strategy to approach countries in a way that is not merely describing and extolling its values but one where it actively stands up for its interests.