This general election has been notable for many things, but one of them has been the absence of the Cheshire-cat grin of our former prime minister, Tony Blair. We last saw him, and heard his now strangely mid-Atlantic tones, just before the campaign actually started in his former parliamentary seat.
Now comes news that he is to be unleashed as Labour's "secret weapon". He is expected to sprinkle his stardust on some marginals in the south-east before voters in the north-west enjoy the good fortune of having his presence bestowed upon them.
Labour must be desperate. And that's not just my opinion. In the Guardian (article linked above), Patrick Wintour wrote that Blair "has not been seen since he gave a speech in his old Sedgefield constituency almost a month ago".
Actually, that's not quite true. The Daily Mail's David Jones tracked him down to a convention centre just outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Blair headed the bill at the National Achievers' Congress. The paper says that for appearing at what it called a "glitzy, get-rich-quick rally" and its associated speaking tour, the man who is supposed to be bringing peace to the Middle East was being paid £350,000.
Pretending to be an ordinary delegate, Jones managed to speak to Blair. Here is his report of what Tony said about the UK election. "He might do 'something' before the campaign finished, he went on unenthusiastically, adding: 'But I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.' If he appeared on the stump people would accuse him of meddling, he explained, but if he didn't they'd say he didn't care."
Not exactly fighting talk from Labour's "secret weapon", is it?