Is Tony still the magic maker?

Is Tony still the magic maker?

    Should Gordon be worried about the eulogies to Blair

blair xmas card.jpgTucked away in the detail of yesterday’s YouGov poll were the responses to the question “Who would make the best Prime Minister”? When the options were Blair, Cameron and Campbell 79% of Labour voters said Tony with just one per cent naming Cameron

But when the same question was asked with Gordon Brown substituted for Tony Blair the proportion of Labour voters going for Brown dropped to 71% with 6% naming Cameron.

The same effect was seen with the forced choice question – “would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative Government led by Cameron or a Labour Government led by Brown/Blair”. A total of 90% Labour supporters went with the Blair-led option but this number dropped to 79% when Brown’s name was substituted.

For in spite of everything there appears to be a significant group of voters who went with Labour because of Tony and might fall away when he goes.

All of this could be magnified in the coming months as we get nearer to the Blair departure. For we are already starting to see the eulogies to Tony Blair – one of which, by Matthew Parris, appears in the Times this morning. Under the heading “I’m no fan of the man, but I do love Blair’s Britain” Parris goes on to record the good things that have happened to British society in the past nine years.

Parris writes: “..And there has been, as gradual as it is signal and (I hope) permanent, a steady reduction in the level of general censoriousness in public life. In its way this is every bit as health-giving as a reduction in the volume of noxious gases in the atmosphere, and it is clear to me that Mr Blair himself has helped to lead it. Whether or not he “does” God (as Alastair Campbell put it), this Prime Minister does not do preaching, moralising or finger-wagging. The news media, even the red-top tabloids, have followed suit. Look at the sympathetic way the victims of the Suffolk murders have been treated by the press and broadcasters in recent weeks…..In democratic politics it is no small thing to catch a changed wind early, to let it fill your sails, and to help steer the spirit of a nation into different waters. This Mr Blair has done with a deftness, with a sensitivity to national mood that has been unequalled by any British politician I can remember. And the result has been good. That at least is a legacy of which he should be proud.”

For those of us who like predicting General Elections I fear that 2007 is going to be a frustrating year. How will Labour be viewed when the man who made it OK for many in the middle classes to support the party finally steps down? Will the dramatic changes that a likely Brown government invigorate the party?

I find this hard to call. The polling numbers don’t look good for Gordon but he will surely be perceived very differently when it is Sarah and him posing on the staircase of Number 10 and not the Blairs?

Mike Smithson

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