Former prime minister and hated “war criminal” Tony Blair is considered the best Labour leader for the last 30 years among Labour voters who both stuck with or abandoned the party at the general election in May, despite the expected leadership victory of hard leftist Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday.
Voters who had picked Labour in 2010 told pollster Michael Ashcroft that Blair had done the best job of representing the whole country, attracting voters outside of Labour and offering competent leadership out of leaders since 1985, beating Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown, John Smith and Neil Kinnock.
Smith, who died of a heart attack in May 1994, was however seen as a better representative of Labour’s values.
Question: From what you remember or have heard, who would you say was the best leader of the Labour Party in the last 30 years?
Note: “All voters” included results from poll of general UK adult populace, including Labour and non-Labour voters.
Source: Project Red Dawn by Michael Ashcroft
The findings from online polls and focus groups taken throughout August and September suggest that the hunger for an heir to Blair in the Labour party remains, though the Labour leadership candidate with the best claim to that mantle, Liz Kendall, looks set to come last when the results are revealed this Saturday.
Commenting on Blair’s enduring popularity, Ashcroft said:
“First, [the respondents] regarded him as a strong, capable, convincing leader. Next, they understood what he was trying to do and, crucially, they believed that he understood them. As a result, they felt that the Labour Party under Blair’s leadership had an agenda which combined fairness and decency with respect for enterprise and hard work.”
Asked why Blair was so favoured a focus group attendee said: “The feeling with Blair was that you got the best of both worlds – still a capitalist society but fairer and more socially oriented.”
Another person argued that New Labour would “look after the middle class and business too”, whilst a further one pointed out that some businessmen “work hard and struggle” – a view captured in the so-called “Essex Man” of “aspirational” working class voters which Blair worked so hard to court.
One focus group member said that Blair did not seem like “some weird public schoolboy”, an ironic comment given that Blair boarded at Fettes College, a fee-paying school outside of Edinburgh that is among the most privileged in the country.
(Non-Brits are advised that the British refer to fee-paying schools as both private and public, whilst free schools are known as state schools. Which is helpful.)
Full details of Ashcroft’s research can be found on the pollster’s website.
Image Credit – Tony Blair, October 2009 by Center for American Progress