JOHN McGURK NOVEMBER 22 2016
Tony Blair, the former prime minister who thinks he can save Britain from Brexit, should dramatically re-think his comeback.
Instead of taking the traditional route of gathering support through speeches, writings and television interviews, perhaps he should take a leaf from the political rehabilitation book of Ed Balls.
Poor old Ed, whose dream of becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer ended when he was kicked out of Parliament at the general election just 18 months ago, is back with a bang — big-time.
He’s now well on his way to becoming a national treasure thanks to his appearances on prime time Saturday night TV.
The audiences clearly love him to such an extent that they keep on voting for him to stay in Strictly Come Dancing at the expense of other competitors who can actually dance. Ed could even end up winning.
The 49 year-old Ed did it again at the weekend when he was lowered onto the stage playing a flaming piano before proceeding to jive to the Jerry Lee Lewis hit Great Balls of Fire; his paunch wobbling in time with his knees.
The power of reality television has given Ed a whole new career. Who would have thunk it?
Michael Portillo is another one. He was arguably the most hated Conservative politician in Britain when he lost his seat at the 1997 general election.
How pleased we were to see him beaten and humiliated. The nation cheered.
Now he’s the darling of late night TV political debate where his opinions are genuinely worth listening to and he presents entertaining programmes about great train journeys across the world.
What would either of them have given for a slice of their new found popularity when they were struggling for votes?
Blair, on the other hand, is about to attempt it the hard way by setting up a political institute which will attempt to influence Britain’s withdrawal from the EU as Theresa May goes for her hard Brexit.
His opponents, and there are many, are already rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of the most discredited politician in recent UK history trying to win support.
They even suggest that his unpopularity will help the Brexit cause, not hinder it.
The pity is that Blair is right. There is a gaping hole in British politics.
As the Conservatives move further to the right and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn move further to the left, millions of voters have been disenfranchised and have nowhere to turn.
Blair should have been remembered as one of the greatest prime ministers of all time.
He won three elections on the trot but his fascination with George W. Bush got in the way. The rest is history and bad history at that.
Meanwhile Trump, the most unlikely president, is on his way to the White House partly thanks his popularity on the American version of The Apprentice.
Whether we like it or not, our lives and our futures are being ruled by light entertainment television.
What happens on Strictly Come Dancing is more important than Prime Minister’s Question Time and certainly more popular than a major interview on Newsnight when half of the country is asleep.
And this is why Tony Blair should consider getting his dancing shoes on.