Could Tony Blair actually get elected again?

Are we nostalgic for New Labour? Never were public services so good as under Blair – his return is improbable, but not now unthinkable, writes Jon Davis

Thursday 20 May 2021 12:06
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<p>Has the former prime minister gone on a journey from villain to hero?</p>

Has the former prime minister gone on a journey from villain to hero?

The hysteria of Tony Blair hate is over. The chapter has closed on egg-throwing, scuffles, “Bliar” placards, and juvenile attempts at citizen’s arrests whenever he dared to show his face. Instead, Labour’s most electorally successful leader is now openly consulted not only by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, but even by Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, such has Blair’s brand detoxified.

In the wake of Labour’s recent poor electoral performance and botched reshuffle, Blair published in the New Statesman a manifesto for anti-Conservatives, prompting the magazine to say that Blair was eyeing a return; while Lord Adonis, the New Labour ultra, repeatedly tweeted that it is “Time for Blair”. Could the unthinkable really happen?

When in 2019 John Rentoul and I launched Heroes or Villains? The Blair Government Reconsidered – published in paperback today (20 May) by Oxford University Press – we expected a backlash. Though an academic text (we hope an accessible one) it was based on interviews with political insiders from both sides of the Blair-Brown divide, along with many of the most senior civil servants with whom the pair had worked, and our findings led to it being pro-Blair.

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