Why bring back Blair now?

The PM will antagonise the voters Labour needs to win back

Tucked away in the Mirror's interview today with Peter Mandelson is confirmation that Tony Blair will return to British politics to campaign for Labour in the general election.

The First Secretary of State (what a wonderfully Soviet-style title that is) revealed:

We want all the party's leadership -- past and present -- to be contributing. They know as well as anyone what is at stake for the country. Everyone will get stuck in. Everyone will campaign: Tony Blair, John Prescott, David Blunkett.

I doubt that Blair's return will do Labour any good. There is a genuine risk that the Iraq inquiry will dissuade voters who deserted the party over the war from returning to the fold. In seats such as Bethnal Green and Bow, which George Galloway's Respect took from Labour in 2005, the war is likely to return as an election issue. Blair's presence on the campaign trail will only exacerbate the damage to the party.

As the psephologist John Curtice has pointed out, voters -- regardless of their precise position on the war -- will generally be reminded of an episode of government incompetence.

To his credit, Blair, unlike Margaret Thatcher, who haunted her party as a "backseat driver", has so far refused to interfere in Labour affairs. He should not abandon this stance. The only winners from his return would be the Liberal Democrats.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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