Labour unleashes Tony Blair to rescue a sagging campaign



Labour unleashes Tony Blair to rescue a sagging campaign London: Done in apparently by Gordon Brown's 'Duffy moment', the ruling Labour party on Friday turned to former prime minister Tony Blair to help shore up its fading re-election hopes.

Blair will hit the campaign trail tomorrow visiting marginal seats in south-east England, as the Labour seeks to undo some of the damage inflicted by Brown's encounter with pensioner Gillian Duffy in Rochdale on Wednesday.

Brown's public gaffe calling the life-long Labour supporter a 'bigoted woman', appears to have hit the party badly as it has slid down in opinion polls, trailing a poor third, ahead of the May 6 election.

Commentators and bloggers have already dubbed the incident as the 'Duffy moment' that may well cost the Labour party the May 6 election.

Though Blair would undertake a big election campaign, he is not expected to appear alongside Brown. The former prime minister has not appeared in his party's campaigns so far.

His appearance on the electoral scene come at a time when early opinion polls are indicating that Brown and the Labour party, ruling Britain since 1996, are at number three position behind the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Blair's return to the cut and thrust of electoral politics has been welcomed by Labour supporters who are concerned with the dwindling fortunes of the party in opinion polls, but his re-entry has been regarded with much cynicism by people not attached to the Labour party.

A Guardian reader wrote: "Tony Blair used real WMD on Iraq. I expect that he will be the ultimate WLD (Weapon of Labour Destruction) in the coming election".

"So, if Blair saves the future of Labour party, I can only feel sorry not only for that party but for the whole of the UK," he wrote.

Blair is also scheduled to visit several constituencies in north-west England next week, including some that adjoin Rochdale. His itinerary was reportedly prepared before the Brown gaffe, and may now be reviewed.

Unlike the Conservative party, whose posters are seen all over the UK, including in the countryside, Labour's campaign is remarkably low key.

The Labour party is also seen as being seriously short of 'star quality'.

Launching a Labour poster campaign in the West Midlands today, an unfazed Brown told supporters: "The time for debates has finished and the time for decision has begun... We will continue to fight for the future of this country until the very last second of this election campaign".

Brown was scheduled to face a grilling on BBC later tonight in an interview with Jeremy Paxman, one of the most feared interviewers in British television journalism.

PTI