Tony Blair’s legacy

Yesterday I got a strange phone call from a journalist who’d heard there was a poll out showing Blair in a positive light – presumably she meant the ICM poll in today’s Guardian. Despite the rock bottom current approval ratings of Tony Blair, when asked to take into account his whole premiership the figures are not so atrocious. The overwhelming majority (80%) of Labour votes think that he was good for the country, though of course, that is of the remaining rump 30% of voters backing Labour, not the 44% of people who elected him way back in 1997. More meaningfully though 44% of people overall thought he had been good for the country over the last 10 years, far more than the sort of approval ratings he gets these days.

58% of people though thought that he had been a disappointment given the expectations when he first became Prime Ministerm and 64% of voters thought he had been too concerned with foreign policy. Despite the loans for peerages inquiry, 44% of people still agreed that Tony Blair was “an honest kind of guy”. Perhaps given the wording of the questions that isn’t that surprising – polls about Tony Blair over the preceeding decade have shown ratings on things like trust plummet…but he has always remained likeable. A majority of people might well think that Blair is unprincipled, untrustworthy and ineffective, but a majority of people have always continued to think that he is a normal, likeable sort of chap.

From now on, I suspect his ratings will gradually climb – everyone can see the positives in an ex-leader, the staunchest Tory started to notice Neil Kinnock’s oratorical skills after he was no longer Labour leader; now he is no longer Tory chief William Hague regularly tops YouGov’s brandindex ratings of politicians. After the initial announcement in October 2004 that Tony Blair was to stand down after a third term his ratings shot up in Populus’s monthly poll and a YouGov poll last month suggested that people already think that history will treat Tony Blair more kindly in hindsight – only 24% of people told YouGov they thought Blair had done a good or excellent job, with 45% thinking he had done a poor or very poor job. In contrast, asked how history would view him, 32% thought he’d be seen as a pretty good or very good PM, with only 30% thinking history will view him negatively.

Still, Blair’s ratings now are largely academic – in 7 weeks time he will be history.

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