Blair ‘will help Labour campaign’

Published: Sunday 8th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Ed Miliband has been promised the full co-operation of Tony Blair during the general election campaign, it was reported as Labour maintained a slim poll lead despite a week of spats with business leaders.

The former prime minister who led the party to three consecutive Commons majorities “will do whatever the party wants” to help secure victory in May, his office told The Observer – which said extensive talks over his role had taken place.

Mr Blair’s comments that fighting on a “traditional left-wing” platform was a recipe for defeat overshadowed Mr Miliband’s New Year message and forced the ex-PM to insist he had been misinterpreted and expected Mr Miliband to follow him into Number 10.

And two of Mr Blair’s close New Labour allies – Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell – yesterday countered claims that they “took soundings” from a potential replacement leader at the height of a plot to depose the Mr Miliband.

But the involvement of Mr Blair – though controversial with sections of the party – may help calm nerves in the business sector.

A series of senior corporate figures have expressed concerns over the impact of a Labour win after the chief executive of Boots Stefano Pessina warned of potential “catastrophe” for the country.

The sustained attacks and Mr Miliband’s fightback – dismissing Mr Pessina as a Monaco-based tax avoider whose advice would not be welcomed by voters – appeared however to have done nothing to dent Labour’s popularity.

A poll for the Observer showed the Opposition up one point from a fortnight ago on 34%, two ahead of the Conservatives, unchanged on 32%.

Ukip dropped three points to 15% in the Opinium research while the Greens and the Liberal Democrats both moved up two points to 8% and 7% respectively.

Mr Miliband remained significantly less well regarded than Tory Prime Minister David Cameron – with a satisfaction score of minus 26 to the PM’s minus five.

Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, said Mr Miliband “will make a very good prime minister” and suggested corporate leaders “will become much more reassured” about the Opposition’s stance by the time of May’s general election.

The peer accepted that more needed to be done to counter the impression being created but said the criticism was a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the party’s position.

“We’ve got two months to show that he can make the case,” he said.

“I believe he has, but I believe there is a determination also to portray him in a very negative way.”

He and ex-Downing Street media chief Mr Campbell contacted Alan Johnson over speculation that he was being lined up by MPs seeking to oust Mr Miliband.

But both countered a claim in the Financial Times they “took soundings to see whether he was prepared to take over” insisting they did nothing more than ascertain from a friend that the rumours he was being lined up were untrue.

Published: Sunday 8th February 2015 by The News Editor

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