New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
  2. Polling
5 January 2022

How unpopular is Tony Blair?

The former prime minister’s knighthood has gone down like a cup of cold sick with the British public.

By Ben Walker

Does Tony Blair deserve his knighthood? Having been prime minister for ten years (1997-2007) and masterminded the New Labour revolution, there’s no denying that Blair has long deserved one if we are to offer gongs by default to the UK’s prime ministers.

But 14 years since he left office, public opinion is uncharacteristically resentful of this former leader. Normally, the more time passes, the more nostalgic, wistful and forgiving the public tends to be of past incumbents. But in Blair’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s a man who, to this day, not only divides voters but actively antagonises them. 

A snap poll by YouGov found that just 14 per cent of voters approved of Blair’s knighthood, while 63 per cent opposed it, including 56 per cent of Labour voters and 55 per cent of those who voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.

And while I don’t have the data to hand, I’d wager that the level of opposition to gongs for Gordon Brown, David Cameron, or even the late Margaret Thatcher, would not be quite so high. A significant portion of voters remain enthusiastic about Thatcher and her legacy. She has had cheerleaders who have served as subsequent prime ministers. Nearly half of the Tory party’s own supporters rank her as the UK’s best postwar PM. Just 10 per cent of Labour supporters say the same of Blair.

During the EU referendum campaign, some 63 per cent of UK voters said they wouldn’t trust a word that came out of Blair’s mouth about Europe. 

Such statistics don’t bode well for the political comeback that Blair is sometimes rumoured to aspire to, but what of his own side? The Labour Party’s membership has undergone radical change since Blair’s departure as leader in 2007, but he can take heart from the fact he’s just as popular as the last guy. Which is to say, not very popular at all.

Labour’s membership (as of 2021) has a favourable view of Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. A similar number approve of the postwar prime minister Clement Attlee and the current leader, Keir Starmer, but in the case of Jeremy Corbyn and Blair, the party is split. Just over half of Labour’s own membership holds a favourable view of the two leaders, even though one oversaw three successive election victories, and the other, well, didn’t.

Such is the Labour Party’s attitude to Blair. He’s not popular and, unlike the less successful Gordon Brown, his political interventions are rarely welcomed. His knighthood, meanwhile, has gone down like a cup of cold sick with the country at large.

But Blair, who became less preoccupied with popularity as his premiership progressed, simply may no longer care.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy

Topics in this article : ,