He’s back and he’s angry. And not with Ed Miliband! Though he behaved as if he’d never been away from Sedgefield. The sunny weather was what “you can always expect in the North-east”, he joked, like a man who had come to rest in County Durham instead of criss-crossing the world at dizzying speed for the past seven years.
But he can still do it. And how. Cameron’s referendum was “a concession to Party, a manoeuvre to access some of the Ukip vote, a sop to the rampant anti-Europe feeling of parts of the media”. Miliband had shown “real leadership” by refusing to follow him. Even the distinctive cadences were still there. Instead of “The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux...” he gave us “a completely unacceptable gamble with our nation’s future”.
Only a real master of the unspoken as well as the spoken word could endorse his successor-but-one at once fully and sparingly. “He showed that on this as on other issues, he is his own man, with his own convictions and determined to follow them even when they go against the tide. I respect that.” Which could just mean: “Look, the man’s a delusional leftist but hey, at least he stands up for his opinions.” But then he added: “Just so you understand and get this fully, I support him 100 percent.”
The BBC’s James Landale asked if he agreed with Miliband’s critique of the business world and capitalism? Blair’s reply was: “I agree completely with what he’s saying about the central challenge of inequality in our country.” This was a concession, since Blair didn’t use to be that keen on talking about “equality”.
Landale was described as “Tory scum” by a Sedgefield comrade – possibly a party plant to show that Blair was present at an authentic Labour occasion. Curiously, his speech was subtitled “A very good reason to vote Labour”. Yesterday he sounded happy to have finally come up with one.