Blair’s return will be worth a good 2-3 points to the Tory lead. Like Mandelson, he can dazzle journalists who admire his tradecraft. Like Mandelson, he is loathed by the public who see a snake oil salesman. Blair mis-sold the country a project in 1997, and delivered none of what he promised (and it was with those broken 1997 problems in mind that the News of the World backed the Conservatives last weekend). He is not very popular now.
When he gave evidence to the Chilcott Inquiry, the crowds came from near and far to denounce him. One placard, which I found outside my office, said "Blair is a war criminal" then someone had taped below it "and a w****r" but without the asterisks. Whoever did this wanted to make a point: that besides his objection to our intervetion in southern Iraq, he held a low regard for Blair personally. And when you consider the gulf between what he offered and what he delivered, no wonder.
So let Blair come. Let his grin be on every newspaper tomorrow. It will all serve as a reminder to the swing voters about how they should never trust a Labour promise.
UPDATE: THX1138, Blair is in demand commercially because he’s an excellent speaker. We listened to his mellifluous speeches for ten years, and what did it get us? I actually agree with Blair not just on Iraq and Britain’s place in the world but, more importantly, public sector reform. In the end, he couldn’t deliver because he never properly got the better of Brown and the vested interests. That’s why, for all my agreement with Blair’s pro-market agenda, I have no nostalgia for his premiership.
As for his future in the campaign, Steve Nolan put it well on Five Live: they’ll test his poll ratings and, if they are good, invite him back on. If he bombs, they won’t.
But the reformist Labour party that Blair represents was beaten into retreat WHILE he was still leader. New Labour died with the 50p tax Budget, and the more we see of Blair the more we’ll be reminded that we have Old Labour – in the form of the Brown-Whelan-Simpson axis of thugs – back in charge now.