The Sun this morning has some polling from YouGov on attitudes towards Tony Blair three years after his departure. 47% of people think that Blair was a good Prime Minister, 46% that he was a bad one – probably not a bad record. On balance, people tended to think that Blair was likeable (by 57% to 35%), principled (by 43% to 39%) and a good representative for Britain abroad (by 50% to 37%), he fell down on honesty – 44% thought he was dishonest as PM.

Asked what his greatest achievements were as Prime Minister, the minimum wage and bringing peace to Northern Ireland came top by some distance (interestingly, the minimum wage was seen as Blair’s greatest acheivement even by Conservative voters, whereas things like his record on the economy and public services were mainly picked by Labour supporters). His greatest failures were seen as failing to tackle immigration and, unsurprisingly, the invasion of Iraq.

Finally, in the context of the leadership election, we asked whether Labour should distance itself from Blair’s legacy to get back into power, or whether it would be a mistake for them to turn their back on the legacy of a PM who won three elections. It was a pretty even divide, 30% said Labour should distance themselves, 34% it would be a mistake. Amongst Labour supporters, 59% said it would be a mistake for Labour to turn their back on Blair’s legacy.

Meanwhile, there were mixed results on the daily trackers. Government disapproval was the lowest yet for the coalition on minus 4 (38% approve, 42% disapprove). However, voting intention was far more positive for the Conservatives, CON 43%, LAB 37%, LDEM 12%. 6 points is the biggest Tory lead for a fortnight.

Also worth noting is the AV referendum voting intention question from yesterday, which I overlooked at the time. NO is now ahead by 39% to 37%. Still within the margin of error and a huge distance to go, but it suggests the YouGov poll a fortnight ago showing No ahead for the first time was not just a blip.

503 Responses to “Tony Blair’s legacy”

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  1. @ Eoin

    “When I was 18, the 50% top rate of tax made a lot of sense.
    Now, I think it punishes people for working hard.”

    The propaganda got to you at last then? ;)

    This argument does make sense but maybe it’s just me, and my own lack of interest in building up lots of money except as a means to give it away to help people, but I always view it in the context that 50% of 150 grand is 75 grand which is surely enough for anybody to live comfortably (though feel free to correct me if it isn’t)

    As for keeping it permanent – there will be arguments for and against. It brings in extra money, which pays down debt and potentially avoids building up debt to such an extent (plus with PFI payments in the future, it might not be a bad idea to keep it going during boom years for that extra bit of pay off cash)

    I like Ed because of the environment thing – but I guess that’s only natural seeing as I do care for the environment (he says whilst typing on his computer plugged into electricity). Track record I can understand but he did do a lot of work in and around gov’t before being an MP (he was special adviser to Gordon Brown for a number of years – dunno if that’s a plus or a minus).

    Miliband Brand D I have no time for. Regardless of track record I find him to be dis-loyal and spineless (his constant muttering of challenging Gordon but never doing so always struck me as the kind of person who says ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ – but then tomorrow becomes next week, next week becomes next month, next month becomes next year etc.)

    Miliband D’s other problem is the torture saga that doesn’t seem to want to go away. If it turns out that Britain was complicit in torture… I’ll rephrase that – if people find out that Britain was complicit in torture on Miliband D’s watch then that’s him knackered as Labour leader before he’s out of the traps.

    For Labour what they really need is a leader who will stop this stupid ‘split the Lib Dems’ tactic that Harriet Harman has going on (and I’m not saying this just because I’m a Lib Dem, promise ;)). They need a leader who isn’t afraid to attack Cameron and the Conservatives directly – and I think that Ed (and I imagine Andy Burnham) would offer that, over Miliband D. Because, during these times, the country can’t really afford another damp squib opposition that featured between 1997 and 2010. And, in my opinion, Cameron is not nearly as good an orator and debater as people say he is. His rise to real prominence featured against Gordon Brown – who wasn’t the best at quick ripostes. Some of the questions he got chucked Tony Blair could’ve defeated with a whiteboard and fridge magnets.

    I agree with your other post that Labour need to get away from Darling’s manifesto (dunno what he was thinking there seeing as cuts on that scale are not strictly necassary). What Labour can’t afford is a vague manifesto that Cameron had for a number of years (the “I don’t know what we’d do, but we certainly won’t do that”). If they want credibility they have to come up with a plan that makes sense and isn’t sugar coated (i.e. it deals with bad in detail as well as the good.) I think that Ed is prepared to bite that bullet and present a sensible plan. I don’t know enough about Andy Burnham (saw him once on Question Time and thought he talked sense) but from what you’ve said about him it sounds like he’d do the same.

    Hmmm… I fear that I’ve got away from the original point of this post, so here endeth the rant before it becomes an essay :)

    P.S. Capitalism isn’t home and dry yet, so the socialist revolution could still be on. And thanks for putting up with this drivel.

  2. @ Everyone

    Ah balls that did become an essay – apologies for cramping the page.

  3. I am aware that bookies odds do not represent that chance of winning, but what balances the overall book in favour of the bookmaker. I am not immune to the odd bet myself, be it horses or poker..

    I do have serious concerns if Ed wins. Call me old fashioned, but I always think that you need to keep your core vote on board, while getting 10 – 15% of people from swing voters to stay with you.

    I wonder if Ed can really attract this 10 – 15% ??

  4. Billy,

    Excellent post and most of it I agree with. Ed M, is an unknown. By virtue of the fact that he is to the left of his bro he might pick up votes. and I certainly accept he is to the left of DM.

    Your critique of DM I share, with the exception of the rendition stuff. DM inherited that. His foreign policy is fairly good and I would trust him not to go on an evangelist crusade like his mentor.

    My biggest worry with Ed M and you highlight it very well, is that he polarises opinion. On policy my favourite is Ed Balls. He has cast iron credentials and is very able. Unfortunately, the right of the party cannot stomach him.

    I dont know what the right think of Ed M, they never seem to address him substantively. Maybe they feel there is not much substantively to address.

    As for Cameron, he is doing a good job looking statesmanlike. The attributes he got into power on will not be the attributes he contests the next election on. It is the same for Obama, and was the same for Bill Clinton. Never underestimate your opponent.

    Your passion for the environment is commendable. My lack of it is to my detriment I do not doubt.

  5. I see Mike Smithson eulogises that AV is a half way house (more than) to PR (which is not my way of looking at it. The lab leadership contest would be more convincing as an AV election if it was one man one vote of proper members, but using such a system will undoubtedly cost them embarrassment next May unless the new leader changes the mood music by then. I expect he will (it will be a he?)..

  6. Howard,

    I sent you a very long post on AV/PR two days ago. I dont think you got it.

  7. 50% of 150 grand is 75 grand

    True Billy but you forgot the income thas is not taxed (pa’s), then that at 20%, then that at 40% – in other words someone has to be earning a huge amount before entering the 50% bracket.

    So yes you can live very well if you are paying 50%.

  8. @Howard

    The “Mood Music” as you put it is not as harshly opposed to AV in the Labour camp as you put it. They’re not really bringing it up now, precisely because they don’t want it turned into a wedge issue.

    But none of the Labour Leader candidates are really ready to head up a NO on AV campaign. In fact, the most strident anti-av talk I’ve seen from Labour members, has been in comments here.

    I personally expect the Labour Official Choir to start singing the praises of AV if DM gets in, as it’ll draw disgruntled LibDems away from the Conservatives once the Conservatives start campaigning on NO.

  9. Apologies Eoin

    Oh goodness where am i to look – searching for one Eoin post is look for the proverbiable needle in the haystack.

  10. Howard,

    The debate over whether or not AV is PR is quite silly one. All systems have a degree of proportionality and all systems waste votes even 1 constituency lists waste votes.

    I appreciate the electoral reform society draws a distinction between the plurality systems and other systems but that masks inequalities in those systems also

    100,000 votes 4 seats.

    20,000 (+1) to win a seat.

    Thus 80,004=4seats

    19996 wasted votes.

    40% of the votes (+2) could have gotten you 50% of the seats.
    Thus as we call STV proportional- it is not the all singing all dancing equal system we think it is.

    It is my favourite ststem because it has bigger constituencies and is more pluralistic but it is not perfect.

    On a national list system of 1 constitunecy with 600 MPs, you could have 43332 votes and yet not get a seat. Think about that- Caroline Lucas got less as did George Galloway. ironically even in the system regarded as the pureest you have wasted votes.


    My biggest pet hate of all is that those in favour of PR want a threshold to stop the undesirables getting elected. . The very essence of the deomcratic argument is undermined when you have a threshold.

    Whilst blue under FPTP get 37% of the vote at c55% of the seats may seem bad…. under STV they could get 40% of the vote (+1) and get 50% of the seats..

    Now for the scariest proposition of alll: if people refuse to exercise their preference eg (2, 3, 4,) then their vote drops out of the loop or becomes “non-transferable”. In some Northern irish constituencies non-transferability has been as high as 59%. Under these circumstance the quota drops (hell almost always it does). when it drops you can get 50% of the seats with even less than 40% of the vote (+1).

    conceivably with a non-transferance of a third… you coudl still end up seeing a party collect a majority of the votes under STv with 35% of the vote.

    all things considered I am still an advocate of STV but no system is perfect.

  11. For those who do not know where Ed M is coming from, look at where Neil Kinnock was poltically when he made his “I warn you not to be ordinary…” speech.

    That’s Ed M in a nutshell.

    Why is the center of the party not attacking Ed M? Because the attacks might appear to be on behalf of his brother, their own leadership pick. If Ed wins, this will become a case study on ‘How the left outsmarted the center’. Ed M’s backers know Labour insider politics better than David’s do; they’ve waited a long time for this opportunity.

  12. @Roland Haines

    PS. I love the way you said “totally worthy”. I so use americanisms all the time and wish I could do the to die for accents. I even greet people with a “Howdy”. :)

  13. Amber,

    Is that your way of signalling a change in your voting intention? Or is this not the place to divulge that. My ticking box in y brain tells me he is at least your second pref…

  14. @ Éoin

    Ed Miliband is my second, although I like Ed Balls’ feisty attitude too.

    I was quite willing to change my second choice; but I have been reassured by how well Ed M’s team have handled his candidacy. He is not in this alone – therefore I am much less concerned about his lack of experience than I was earlier in the campaign.

    Andy Burnham is my first preference, that will not change now. He has become more appealing as the ‘race’ progressed. 8-)

  15. @Amber Star – “I warn you not to be ordinary…”

    Would that chime at all with John Smith’s pre-election ‘shadow budget’ which was seen as unneccessary and a vote loser by some?

  16. Amber,

    I just read Kinnock’s speech. A mesterpiece yes. I like rhetoric.

    You must be anticipating a CSR armagheddon?

    I have long said that the electorate will have had their fill of ‘russian dolls’ by 2015. But quite how much of a fill it is hard to fathom…

    Who else other than NK is behing Ed M? You have me intrigued

    ps. Toby Young;s Telegraph column is worth a read…

  17. @ Éoin

    To be absolutely frank, my initial concern about Ed M was that he’s a stalking horse; there to split the left of center vote & ensure his brother’s victory.

    His team has done too much & performed too well for that to be the case. I believe his candidacy is sincere. 8-)

  18. Amber,

    Thanks for that- It is ironic that Ed B (as much as I love him) could be that very horse.

  19. Latest government approval -2 (approve 40%, disapprove 42%)

    Latest YouGov/Sunday Times Voting Intention CON 42%, LAB 37%, LDEM 12%

  20. @ Billy Bob

    RE: John Smith’s shadow budget. Essentially, yes. That is why Ed M is saying he will retain the 50% tax rate.

    Saying you will not change a tax rate is:
    1. Much smarter than lowering it, then having to raise it again;
    2. Carries the implication that you will not raise it; &
    3. It is a done deal. The ConDems cannot spin an existing tax as a ‘tax bombshell’. That would make them look foolish.

    Ed M’s team know what they are doing on this. DM’s team are writing centerist tax policy cheques that the future may not enable him to cash.

  21. @ Éoin

    Thanks for that- It is ironic that Ed B (as much as I love him) could be that very horse.
    Yes, on reflection, I believe this is a a very sharp analysis of where things have moved to. 8-)

  22. Amber,

    A reincarnation of Prescott’s populism and Blair’s radicalism? all in geared in one direction, of course.

  23. I remember that speech almost line by line, thought it brilliant, and was convinced it would turn the election.

    The electorate never really warmed to his rhetoric. (Was it just that they did not like his voice, or did they think it to self-consciously oratorical in style?)

  24. I agree with Billy.Cameron is not as good a debator as people,i.e. the right wing press say he is.In fact in those television debates he was at best mediocre.I feel Ed Milliband will win this.And deserves to.

  25. @Eoin
    “My biggest pet hate of all is that those in favour of PR want a threshold to stop the undesirables getting elected. . The very essence of the deomcratic argument is undermined when you have a threshold.”

    Well said. True PR will give us Socialist Worker, BNP, maybe even the odd Monster Raving Looney in parliament, and a good thing too.

    Re the Labour leadership. All the candidates seem like potential disasters for Labour. Whatever the ins and outs of the fine detail of policy variations, the fact is that 3 or 4 of the candidates come across to non-Labour people as weird. The one I’m not sure about is Balls, but he is tainted by close association with Brown. The only normal candidate who could engage with ordinary people is Burnham, but i’m dubious about his leadership qualities from the admittedly little I’ve seen of him.

  26. Billy Bob
    “The electorate never really warmed to his (Kinnock’s) rhetoric. (Was it just that they did not like his voice, or did they think it to self-consciously oratorical in style?)”

    As a non-Labour voter I can tell you that he always struck me as a self-important arrogant Welsh windbag. I was obviously not alone.

  27. @ Éoin

    EM’s declared backers show the Labour ‘muscle’ he has behind him: Kinnock, Hain, Benn, Dromey, John Smith’s wife… I could go on.

    That also tells you something about his undeclared backers too (I am studiously avoiding naming names).

    His comment about killing off the LibDems – that was a [clumsy] allusion to the LabLib concensus that Tony Blair walked away from. The Tory/ Orange book coalition has raised that ghost from its grave. Do not discount the possibilty that Ed M’s team potentially has ‘guidance notes’ from some senior Dems.

    There is a lot of political muscle behind Ed M, IMO.

  28. Huh… Despite everyone saying that the Guardian set up a poll question so they could back Ed Miliband, by scaring people with Tony and asking about “not moving at all from New Labour”. Tomorrow’s Observe Editorial is up, and it’s throwing their weight fully behind David Miliband.

  29. Amber,

    It has an achilles heel I hope you will permit me to say (of ocurse you will but I am in a Kinnock rhetorical mood).

    Dromey- ‘Unnamed’ That is throwing up a few surnames beginning with W.

    That you draw chronological paralells to ’83 & raise the spectre of ‘w’s (unnamed w’s of course)… is that an acceptance that he is serious about winding back the clock?

    Hmmm… that will take an evening or two of pondering. My first instinct is to say- no wonder Colin wants him to win.

    Billy- you might be on to something with this one! :)

  30. @Pete B – Yes there is always the xenophobic element. People don’t like a preachy tone, and possibly didn’t want to be reminded i) that they were ordinary ii) of all the pain. (Fear factor is really Tory territory.)

  31. @ Billy Bob

    The electorate never really warmed to his rhetoric. (Was it just that they did not like his voice, or did they think it to self-consciously oratorical in style?)
    This is exactly why I think DM is not the right guy to lead Labour. He is a talker, a giver of speeches (which are nowhere near as good as Kinnock’s, BTW).

    The electorate will be in the mood for an ordinary chap when the gloss of having a toff as PM weras off.
    That’s why Burnham is the forward looking choice.

    He would need a little more gravitas; a bit of polishing up on foreign affairs etc. He is the man for the coming times – but we will get a Miliband. 8-)

  32. Billy Bob
    I can understand why you might think my comment was xenophobic, but i don’t understand your points (i) and (ii). Is that a reference to one of his speeches?
    I do remember the preachy tone, and the totally spurious rhetoric about class warfare.

  33. Polls seem largely static, government approval slowly ebbing, but nothing dramatic. The coalition have taken a few hits – again, nothing too dramatic so far but enough to end any honeymoon there might have been and give the government a slightly dented feel, surprisingly early in the political cycle. they haven’t really been able to capture any sense of benefit that might have been expected from a leaderless opposition party.

    Recent economic developments will be worth watching. Less gloom in the US, but significantly more gloom in the UK. There seems to be a sharp slowing of growth in the critical service sector along with big falls in new orders in manufacturing. The last week has seen some pretty worrying forward data and some analysts (financial, not political) are now saying a double dip later this year is getting significantly more likely. This will be something Osborne fears.

  34. @Pete B – The eve of election speech Amber Star mentioned “I warn you not to be ordinary”. Kinnock listed all the ordianary types of people who would face extreme hardship under Thatcher, it was brilliant but spoke to another era in style.

    @Amber Star – David Milliband is much more switched on and engaged with people. One New Statesman contributor referred, unfairly, to AB as someone who looked as if he had wandered in off the street and into the hustings by mistake. Ed M often doesn’t look at people when he speaks, oriented ‘inside’ to his creed or coterie. Only Balls shares with David a real outer-directed awareness.

  35. Garry K – “So the general feeling on this site is Ed to Win?”

    No Garry, Eoin’s feeling is Ed to win.

    It can be hard to resist I know ;)

  36. @ Alec

    I am a professional financial analyst & an amateur political one. A double dip is not “likely” – it is inevitable in Q1 2011, unless the chancellor does a sharp u-turn on his public spending & VAT policies.

  37. @ Sue

    I think it was I, rather than Éoin, who first called a win for Ed M. Although I agree, I do not have Éoin’s definitive style – not often, anyway. 8-)

  38. @ Billy Bob

    One New Statesman contributor referred, unfairly, to AB as someone who looked as if he had wandered in off the street and into the hustings by mistake.
    Exactly – that’s what ordinary people (me, my friends & many others) like about him!

  39. Amber,
    Sorry to be ignorant, but when a ‘double-dip’ recession is being forecast (or any other kind of dip for that matter), what exactly is being measured? Is it as simple as total output of the economy, or something more complicated?

  40. Amber – “For those who do not know where Ed M is coming from, look at where Neil Kinnock was poltically when he made his “I warn you not to be ordinary…” speech.
    That’s Ed M in a nutshell.”

    Bang on the money imo.

  41. @Amber Star – I know he has those dreamy eyes… it is just that he hasn’t really woken up some days… perhaps he should wear 8) . :)

  42. Amber – But perhaps not a general feeling?

  43. @ Billy Bob

    You make me laugh, you really do. 8-)

  44. Looking back at the 1992 General Election, it’s worth remembering that (like 2010) it was one where the polls indicated one result till the last minute and the voters then provided a rather different one. I don’t think Kinnock’s leadership was the main issue on its own; it was more that people’s doubts about him were reinforced by two things.

    The first was the infamous Sheffield rally. I remember a number of friends and acquaintances expressing considerable distaste – even before the press had a chance to jump on it. This masterpiece of Mandelsonian choreography seemed to alienate everyone. Luckily Peter M learnt his lesson and never again claimed credit for anything till after the event. Then he could retrospectively pick the winner and brag about being its trainer. In the meantime even the most devoted Red had second thoughts about voting Labour.

    The second thing was John Major’s orange box. While Kinnock was being stage-managed around the country, Major was actually seen to be engaging with the people and being unafraid to come up against criticism. It made him look like the battling underdog and at the same time gave him more “weight” than his opponent.

    It’s a truism that GE’s are usually not won by one Party, they are lost by the other. I think this is true of all Thatcher’s and Blair’s wins. Arguably the only recent exception I can think of is 1992: when Major’s last minute impromptu street level campaigning (or at the version of it seen on TV) did positively swing votes his way. Distaste for the Tories was already so great, that even the Press’ hysterical attacks supported by Sheffield would not have defeated Labour without Major putting up an image of confidence and probity to make people decide to vote for him and hence his Party. It was not the Sun wot won it, it was the orange box.

  45. @ Sue

    Amber – But perhaps not a general feeling?
    As I said, I do not have Éoin’s definitive way with forecasts.

    It is telling that professional political analysts believe that DM needs EB’s MPs to make DM their second choice, for him to beat his younger brother.

    IMO, DM will need deals to get him back into pole position. Would you have thought that at the beginning of the contest?

    General opinion is that DM will win, I think. My opinion is Ed M will sneak it. I am not convinced that Ed B can deliver the second preferences of the MPs who backed him. I think they could get a better offer – or even decide to make their own choice.

  46. @ Roger Mexico
    Strictly speaking it was a soap box. You said
    “Distaste for the Tories was already so great, that even the Press’ hysterical attacks supported by Sheffield would not have defeated Labour without Major putting up an image of confidence and probity to make people decide to vote for him and hence his Party”

    Distaste for the Tories couldn’t have been all that great. Campaigns don’t make a huge difference to voting intentions, and don’t forget that Major got the highest popular vote ever by any party. His soap box made a difference, but the Tories must have been fairly popular already, whatever you lot like to think.

  47. What are the odds of DM doing a similar deal with AB?

  48. @ Howard

    Thanks for the info – didn’t know that about tax.

    @ Eoin

    Thanks for your reply.

    “Your critique of DM I share, with the exception of the rendition stuff. DM inherited that.”

    Whether he inherited it or not, it came out on his watch. It’s cruel, but unfortunately that means he gets the blame for it. (I’m reminded of a Bremner, Bird and Fortune sketch where Rory, as Blair, stated that “the art of politics is ensuring that you’re out of office when your mess lands.”) I don’t know enough about Foreign Policy to comment on DM in that regard – but I’ll take your word for it.

    Ed does polarise opinion, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it sparks debate.

    I don’t underestimate Cameron, I just don’t think he’s a good a debater and orator as is made out. I actually don’t mind Cameron and I like most of his policies. However with most of his policies, like the flagship Big Society, I’m reserving judgement until the execution of that idea. (Which, incidnetally, I’m imagining might be harder than it seems. Before the Big Society can work he has to eliminate that flagship of capitalist doctrine – the culture of What’s In It For Me? But he’s smart, so I imagine he’ll phase it in over 2-3 years, rather than just introduce it.)

    As for the 2015 election, I think the Conservatives have three scenarios: the good, the awful and the meh. If they get the good scenario, most things going according to plan, then they’re in power for 10-15 years and the Lib Dems eliminated as a political force. If they get the awful scenario, most things go wrong, they’re out for 5-10 years and the Lib Dems are annihilated as a political force. If it’s the meh scenario, some things yes some things no, then that’s hard to call (and the most likely I think). Except the Lib Dems will be as they are (I’m not confident that they’re going to come out of this well, regardless of what happens.) The only thing I suspect is that the Tories can’t have, in five years, “It was the last lot’s fault” as their slogan.

    Blimey, got off topic again. A last thing on Ed. Read an article in the Mail which stated that he was an atheist and not married. They spun this as a vote loser, but I’m not so sure. In 2015 there will be a lot of religious skeptics and people who don’t view marriage as a sacred institution (or are wondering why their taxes are paying married couples £5 a week) lining up to vote. Could work out better than one might think. (What am I saying? I’m a Lib Dem! I don’t want Labour to do well ;))

  49. @Michael V – Diane Abbott has not ruled out making some kind of declaration to her supporters.
    I speculated some time ago that Ed Balls and Andy Burnham might signal coded support for David. Time is running out as some have voted already, and if the outcome looks uncertain they may sit it out. If either of them think there is any truth in the ‘disaster’ scenario they should put party first.

  50. Pete B

    Re Mr Major’s podium. I know that Wikipedia calls 1992 the “Soap Box Election”, but I found this on the web:

    The most recent literal example I can think of is the soapbox, so-called, that the British prime minister John Major spoke from in the 1992 general election. My journalistic contacts say it first appeared in Cheltenham on 30 March 1992; it was certainly a wooden box from a supermarket, but as nobody packed soap in wooden boxes even then, it was instead a more flimsy orange box or crate (at least that’s what it looks like in the news photographs, with black gaffer tape wound round it to make sure it didn’t fall apart and precipitate the PM into the crowd). John Major called it a soapbox to reinforce the idea he was conducting a traditional meet-the-people campaign — on the stump, as Americans say, in reference to another kind of wooden platform.

    As far as his popularity goes polls consistently show the Tories trailing into the election. Mori’s eve of poll figures were Con 38%, Lab 39% (itself a closing of the gap. The actual result was Con 42.8% Lab 35.2%.

    Distaste for the Tories was considerable – I didn’t say it was universal. What Major did was to convince the electorate that he was the best person to take the country forward from what was seen as the divisive time of Thatcher. As you say campaigns don’t make a big difference – this is usually true but sometimes there are exceptions, which is why I picked 1992.

    Oh, and I’m not part of anyone’s lot thank you. ;)

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