Tony Blair talks with Ed Miliband during a Loyal Address service to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at Westminster Hall on 20 March 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Why the Blair-Brooks revelations are useful for Miliband

The contrast between Blair's bid to save Brooks and Miliband's call for her resignation is a reminder of how Labour has changed for the better since 2010.

There were some Tories who reacted with glee when the news broke that Tony Blair advised Rebekah Brooks at the height of the phone-hacking scandal (a week after the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone was revealed). For them, anything that reminds voters of New Labour's infatuation with the Murdoch empire is politically valuable. It makes it easier to spin the narrative that all politicians were too close to the media and that there was nothing exceptional about David Cameron's ties. Labour, they hope, will also be damaged by the phone-hacking trial. 

But this analysis ignores the fact that Labour is now led by a man who has unambiguously repudiated the Murdoch clan. When Ed Miliband called for Rebekah Brooks to resign and for the BSkyB deal to be abandoned, it was viewed as a huge political gamble. But it has turned out to be one of the shrewdest decisions of his leadership. By distancing himself from News International at a time when it was still politically risky to do, he ensured that he would be able to speak with moral authority on the subject of phone-hacking. 

The Blair revelations are a reminder of how much the party has changed under his leadership. While Blair was telling Brooks to "tough up", Miliband was calling for her resignation (the coincidence of these events is rightly being seen as an act of disloyalty to Labour). It is unthinkable that Miliband, who treats his party with far greater respect and courtesy than Blair, would ever devote such attention to forces so hostile to Labour (note that Blair's pro bono advice followed the Sun's "Labour's lost it" front page). 

The latest events are also a reminder, contrary to what many commentators claim, of why Labour was right to elect Miliband, rather than his brother, in 2010. David Miliband, who served in Blair's cabinet and who was long regarded as his heir apparent (Blair memorably dubbed him the "Wayne Rooney" of his government) would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to distance himself from his party's past. But Ed, who stood on a platform of radical change, was able to offer the clean break with New Labour that was so desperately needed. By doing so, and winning back many of those voters who were so alienated by Blair, he has ensured that Labour has a far greater chance of victory in 2015 than it would have had under a continuity candidate. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.