Tony Blair is to end his self-imposed exile from politics to campaign for another term in office for Gordon Brown, it emerged last night.
The rivalry between Mr Blair and his former Chancellor since Labour came to power in 1997 has been well documented. But Lord Mandelson, a key adviser to both men, said yesterday that the former Prime Minister would be hitting the campaign trail to help earn his party a fourth term.
The timing of the announcement will surprise many as it comes just before Mr Blair's appearance at the Iraq inquiry on Friday, reminding voters of his role in committing Britain to an unpopular war. He has also made headlines this week for accepting a six-figure deal to deliver speeches for a firm accused of profiteering from the credit crunch. Lansdowne Partners, a hedge fund accused of making millions by "short-selling" shares during the financial crisis, has signed up Mr Blair to deliver four speeches on world politics.
His reappearance will also annoy many in the party, who believe Mr Blair will be more of a liability than an asset going into an election that will see Labour struggling to stop the Tories from gaining an overall majority.
However, others in the party believe that Mr Blair still has appeal for the middle classes in marginal seats, a constituency that will be critical in deciding the outcome of the election. David Cameron, the Tory leader, has attempted to style his party as having taken on the progressive mantle of Mr Blair.
Lord Mandelson said he would be joined by other figures from the early days of New Labour. "We want all the party's leadership – past and present – to be contributing to our electoral success," Lord Mandelson told the Daily Mirror. "They know what is at stake for the country." He added: "Everyone will get stuck in. Everyone will campaign: Tony Blair, John Prescott, David Blunkett. We need the support of these well-known faces."