The part of the Blair piece the Tories don't want you to read

In his NS article, Blair says Labour is right to reject the argument that it "created" the crisis by overspending.

As you'd expect, the Tories have seized on Tony Blair's declaration that Labour must not "tack left on tax and spending". Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said:

Tony Blair is right to warn that Labour aren't a credible party of government under Ed Miliband. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have opposed every single difficult decision this government has taken to fix the problems that Labour left behind - on welfare, on immigration and on the deficit. The only plan Labour have is more of what got us into this mess in the first place - more spending, more borrowing and more debt.

It is worth noting, however, that in his piece Blair explicitly rejects the argument that it was overspending by Labour that "got us into this mess". While conceding that there was a case for "a tightening around 2005", Blair argues that Labour is right to be "very robust in knocking down the notion that it 'created' the crisis." As he points out, the current structural deficit was less than 1 per cent in 2007/08 and the national debt was lower than in 1997. It was the crisis that caused the deficit, not the deficit that caused the crisis. 

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps speaks at last year's Conservative conference in Birmingham. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.