What emotions were stirred by the spectacle of Tony Blair at the lectern, eyes aflame, pouring forth his beliefs: Regret, fury, admiration, regret? Sad! as President Trump might tweet.
The former PM has a point, though, if one were to peer through the poison that cloaked his remarks. There is no voice for the “mellow minority” and the “malleable majority” who worry jointly and equally over the “surreal” state of affairs Brexit will bequeath.
Who speaks – with passion and verve – to temper the excesses of the Brexiteers? Who fights for the City? For talent-starved tech start-ups and the struggling SMEs? Who fights for the connectivity classes? The creative sector? The millennials?
Who fights for those who felt short-changed by an ignorant referendum process? Who will “day in day out articulate the reality” and promote the “alliance of values” in this “epic of period of global evolution”?
Look around the ruins of an entire English political class and no-one rises above mediocrity.
The job should, surely, fall to the Leader of the Opposition, but we can measure the decline of the Labour Party by contrasting the weight of Tony Blair in that post to the flimsy of Jeremy Corbyn. One sharp, quick-witted, driven, destined; the other gloomily entombed in defeat and reluctance.
“The real fight starts now,” Corbyn said after whipping through Article 50. But can anyone imagine anything but a mouse jousting against the flank of a lion?
Imagine, in another world, a pre-Iraq Tony Blair at the dispatch box harrying the Government over the Brexit deal. Prime Minister Theresa May – not the best at handling surprise – would surely be less of a figure than her polls now suggest.
Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine (again, a pre-Iraq) Tony Blair heading up the Remainers and exposing the meandering hypocrisies of Boris Johnson and the distasteful zeal of Ukip. The Left may despise him now, but he would have been a campaigner without equal in his pomp.
This is an era where the qualities of leadership – or their absence – are leaving permanent marks on the culture of countries. The battles are no longer necessarily about left/right issues but the struggle to find a broader, accommodation in a world where movements like Brexit tilt at tribal loyalties.
“What this means is that we have to build a movement which stretches across party lines, and devise new ways of communication,” Blair said.
No better straddler of principles than Blair, no better stitcher-upper of workable compromises and wallpaperer of cracks. No better delineator of sunny uplands for the stragglers. No better communicator.
These strengths were also his undoing and it is why the disappointment in the depleted promise of premiership runs deep and tastes bitter.
Tony Blair’s contribution on Brexit should be welcomed and heeded. It won’t be. The piety rankles. The scar tissue itches. The muddied banner remains unclaimed.