Election 2015: Why Tony Blair still matters

Tony Blair
Tony Blair is back under the spotlight

"Former Labour prime minister backs Labour" is one of those news stories that falls into the "dog bites man" variety. Important, perhaps, to the poor chap with a sore leg but hardly news for the rest of us. So why will we spend so much of today discussing Tony Blair's intervention in the election campaign?

1) Tony Blair won general elections. Three, to be precise. He knew how to do something the current generation of political leaders seems unable to do and that is secure majorities in the House of Commons. Any advice he gives Labour will be scrutinised for vicarious wisdom from which the party could benefit with the opinion polls still showing little movement in any direction.

2) Does he still have it? Does the former prime minister still have enough lingering political stardust to win some uncertain voters back to the Labour fold? Can he persuade soft Tory voters that Ed Miliband is not such a raving lefty that they can trust him with their vote? Or does the perma-tanned millionaire diplomat, who led Britain into an unpopular war in Iraq, who does business with shady foreign leaders, have such a toxic reputation that he no longer tickles the underbelly of the British voter?

3) Will Mr Blair be able to hide his disagreements with Mr Miliband over Labour's direction? Neither men's allies pretend to deny that there are not sharp disagreements between them. Mr Miliband has pitched his leadership as a deliberate attempt to "move on" from Blairism and New Labour. Mr Blair warned in the Economist before Christmas against an election "in which a traditional left wing party competes with a traditional right wing party" with the traditional result of a Tory victory. It is notable that in extracts of his speech released over night, Mr Blair says little of what he thinks about the rest of Labour's campaign. Europe is common ground; other subjects are avoided. Why, voters may ask, should they follow Mr Blair's advice when Mr Miliband ignores so much of it himself? Mr Blair nods to this in his speech when he says: "(Mr Miliband) is his own man, with his own convictions and determined to follow them even when they go against the tide. I respect that." The irony is exquisite.

4) Will the Left be able to accept his advice with good grace? Several Labour candidates have already refused his offer of £1,000 to help with their campaigns because they consider his reputation so tarnished it would cost them votes. The Guardian newspaper describes Mr Blair this morning as "an embarrassing aging relative" whom Labour feels obliged to invite to the wedding to avoid questions about why he was not there.

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Cameron v Miliband: The debates begin

Labour leader Ed Miliband and Jeremy Paxman (right) on the Sky News/Channel 4 programme: "Cameron v Miliband Live: The Battle for Number 10"

It was not a head-to-head debate. But it was a back-to-back job interview and a good one at that.

It gave voters the chance to see the two men who could be our prime minister tested, above all, by Jeremy Paxman's robust questioning. (Full disclosure: I once spent a summer doing some paid research work for Jeremy when I was a student).

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Has David Cameron opened Pandora's Box?

So, what did he mean by that?

David Cameron's admission that he will not serve a third term in Downing Street will provoke a flurry of speculation. What was he hoping to achieve? What message was he trying to send?

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Leader profile: Nick Clegg opens up about life outside politics

Nick Clegg is unique in British politics.

No MP has such a cosmopolitan and international background - his mother is Dutch, his father half Russian, his wife Spanish.

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Budget 2015: Osborne's message to voters

Chancellor George Osborne with his Treasury team outside 11 Downing Street

George Osborne's aim today was to turn the economic recovery of the country into the political recovery of the Conservatives.

So, he tried to reassure voters worried about another Tory-led government and convince them they'll benefit from the growing economy.

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Budget 2015: Police warning over leak risk

Chancellor George Osborne outside 11 Downing Street prior to the 2014 Budget
Mr Osborne is set to deliver his sixth Budget

The top civil servant at the Treasury has warned staff he will not "hesitate to call in the police" if anyone leaks details from the Budget.

Sir Nicholas Macpherson has sent an email to officials reminding them he takes rules banning any pre-briefing of next week's Budget "very seriously".

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UKIP tries to broaden its appeal

The UKIP leader Nigel Farage

There was a time when UKIP appeared bomb proof.

Candidates and party members would say offensive things. A media storm would hurtle through. And the party could steadily continue to win votes.

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A chat with Justine Miliband

At home, Justine Miliband is a mother of two young boys. At work, she is an eloquent barrister. And in public, she is a silently supportive wife.

But not for much longer. In her first major broadcast interview, the wife of the Labour leader has come out fighting in defence of her husband.

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Leader profile: 24 hours with Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage has a secret, a nocturnal passion.

Away from the pubs and the cameras, while the nation is sleeping, the leader of UKIP likes to go fishing. On the Kent coast. At night. By himself.

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Could UK politics go a little bit Swedish?

Swedish parliament
The Social Democrat-led minority government has 138 of the 349 seats in the Swedish Riksdag

Imagine for a moment that a Conservative-led coalition is defeated at the general election.

It is replaced by what could loosely be called a centre-left coalition that includes the Green Party. But this new government does not have a majority in parliament. It represents only the largest minority group and survives day to day by scraping together temporary coalitions - deal by deal, issue by issue.

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