Is it time for Tony Blair to make a political comeback? Regular contributor Richard Heller discusses. 

Given the double calamity of Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson, it is no surprise that Tony Blair has seen another opportunity to save his party.

These come up regularly, like Mercury going into retrograde motion. But so intense is the double calamity that many previously implacable Labour opponents are now ready to listen to him. As one of these, I offer in a spirit of generous oblivion some advice on how to win us over.

First, get back into politics full time. For years, Mr Blair's political output, domestic and international, like his previous efforts as a Middle East peacemaker, has taken place in the intervals between global moneymaking. Parties and planets cannot be saved by part-timers, and surely he does not need any more money or property? Tony Blair should make himself available not just at grand forums of the great and the good but local Labour party meetings, even those which are likely to be hostile. He should eat more rubber-chicken dinners, as Richard Nixon called them in his long and successful campaign in the 1960s to re-invent himself for his party as the new Nixon. Mr Blair could even billet himself on local party members, as Rory Stewart has been doing to London voters.

Second, endorse one of the leadership candidates who is not Rebecca Long-Bailey. He has already been astute enough to back Ian Murray, the pick of the Deputy candidates. Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer may not actually want his endorsement but once it is given she or he will have to make the best of it. Mr Blair would force everyone involved in the contest to acknowledge him.

Third, find a new speaking style. His big speeches from his heyday do not wear well at all, with their mix of simpering sanctimony, spurious verbless urgency and managerial bromides. Party survivors wonder now how we listened to them, let alone claimed inspiration from them. Mr Blair may have realized this. His recent remarks on Labour's need to shun identity politics were clear and cogent and had a heartening supply of main verbs.

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Fourth, Mr Blair needs to make more of the achievements of his government in terms which appeal to mainstream Labour supporters. This is especially true of the minimum wage ? the greatest thing he did for low-income earners and the workforce in general. In his long memoirs the minimum wage gets less space than the terrible opening night of the Millennium Dome. (In those of Peter Mandelson, who was actually in charge of its implementation, it receives less space than his dogs.) Perhaps this neglect derives from the fact that the minimum wage was not a New Labour policy but a legacy from the leader New Labour airbrushed from its narrative: John Smith.

Fifth, Mr Blair needs to understand better why many Labour supporters feel disappointed at his record. He had the best economic legacy of any incoming Labour government, enjoyed the best world economic environment, and governed without an effective opposition. It is not irrational or ungrateful to think that he might have done more to leave a permanent legacy, as Attlee, in worse circumstances, achieved with the NHS and even Wilson achieved with the expansion of higher education.

He could profitably question some of the basic assumptions of his government, particularly his faith, much greater than Mrs Thatcher's, that the private sector was invariably a better provider than the public sector, and that bankers could be left alone to generate without pain the revenues needed to fund public services. In all of Mr Blair's time in power, it was rare to see him pull down the mighty from their seat and rich men with great possessions never left his presence sorrowing. For a successful comeback, Mr Blair should take on some of Labour's traditional enemies in his rhetoric instead of schmoozing them.

Above all, Mr Blair must apologize for error and failure over the Iraq war. His role in it makes millions of people worldwide simply blank out any message from him, even those they might agree with.  Ignoring all the enduring arguments over his honesty, he should admit that joining the war was a bad idea, badly executed, which brought no benefit for our country to set against its financial and human costs. Even if he does not believe this, he should say this to win back the prize of a political audience. Even his closest followers have got around to saying that his decision was an honest mistake. Why is this so hard for Tony Blair?

One of France's greatest rulers, Henri IV, changed religion to gain the throne, remarking that Paris was worth a mass.

Is our country not worth an apology?

31 votes

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