What Does the Public Think of Tony Blair?
September 6th 2010
Amidst all the hullabaloo about Tony Blair’s autobiography and the frenetic activity around promoting it, protesting at book launches, and people moving it around book shops – and placing it in crime or sci-fi – it is interesting to note the complex pattern of public attitudes towards Tony Blair.
A YouGov poll last week asked whether voters thought Tony Blair had been a good or bad Prime Minister: it found 47% thought he had been ‘a good PM’ and 46% ‘a bad PM’; this wasn’t that different from a May 2007 poll when he was preparing to retire which found a 49:46 split. The only major movement was a hardening of the staunch anti-Blair position: the percentage calling him ‘a very poor PM’ increased from 18% to 25% over the period.
Blair’s ‘good PM’ rating is 80% amongst Labour voters, 49% with Lib Dem voters and 37% amongst Conservative voters; 43% of 18-24 year olds view him a ‘good PM’, and a mere 37% of 60 years olds and plus. Scotland gave Blair a 42% good rating and 50% poor rating.
Interestingly, voters were asked about the six post-war Prime Ministers who have each spent more than five years in office, and which they rated as the best PM answered: 36% Thatcher, 20% Blair, 11% Wilson, 6% Attlee, 5% Macmillan and 2% Major.
This seems to represent the pitfalls of the attraction of recent history – while still having lots of nuance – such as the near-total contempt for John Major’s administration. Every age, class, region and nation put Thatcher first – with the exception of 18-24 year olds – who gave Blair 19% and Thatcher 15% – with 49% don’t know. Scotland gave Thatcher 28%, Blair 19% and Wilson 17%.
This shows I think that the whole BLIAR and toxic view of Blair is not helpful to understanding the complex nature of what happened during the New Labour era, the power and appeal of it and Blair, and how it all went wrong. And even in Scotland, which was supposedly massively resistant to the whole Blair project – while he was PM he was actually popular in Scotland – and still has significant support to this day.
Let it be added that none of this is an attempted defence of Tony Blair – but a small protest against the black and white hectoring, lecturing and shouting. Blair did win three general elections, so he clearly was popular with quite a lot of voters for quite a bit of time!