News24

Blair to the rescue

2010-04-30 10:07

London - Former British prime minister Tony Blair hits the campaign trail on Friday to lend his star quality to the Labour Party's fading re-election hopes, reports said.

The former Labour leader heads to battleground constituencies in the southeast of England, in a bid to boost successor Gordon Brown's chances of returning as head of government after the May 6 poll, said the Guardian paper.

He is expected to take part in an election campaign event but he is not thought likely to appear alongside Brown, said the Press Association news agency, without citing a source.

Blair has already publicly thrown his weight behind Brown, in a speech last month in northeast England - before the election race was officially under way - that heralded his return to the British political stage.

He has not appeared in support of Labour since, but further appearances during the election campaign had already been planned before the party's latest woes.

Early polls indicated Brown had taken last place in the final leaders' TV debate Thursday, a day after he committed a major gaffe on the campaign trail by labelling an elderly widow "bigoted".

The prime minister made the comments privately to aides after he got in his car and was being driven away from 66-year-old Gillian Duffy - but they were caught on a television microphone left attached to his jacket.

Bringing Blair out to campaign has been seen by some commentators as a gamble.

Though he won three straight general elections - a record for a Labour leader - notably by winning over wavering middle-income voters, Blair remains a divisive figure over his decision to take Britain into the war in Iraq.