Poll: More than two thirds believe that Tony Blair did what he thought was right

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    16th November, 2010

    I’ve been having some fun and games over at John Rentoul’s with the usual suspects. One of the more balanced commenters said something which reminded me that I had this post in draft.  So I thought I’d better finish it.

    The spinning Tories are at it again.

    Referring to a recent YouGov Poll, Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home has this snippet of choice selectivity, aka SPIN:


    ‘Voters agree that Margaret Thatcher was better PM than Tony Blair’


    I’m afraid Mr Montgomerie is asking for trouble.

    First, the facts about this poll. It was MAINLY ABOUT TONY BLAIR.

    Sample Size: 1923 GB Adults
    Fieldwork: 31st August – 1st September 2010

    The poll had 12 questions and was largely concerning Tony Blair, not Margaret Thatcher. It is true that the question Tim Montgomerie refers to shows that 35% thought Thatcher was the best post-war Prime Minister (who had served for 5 years or more.)  Blair at 21% was some way behind, though still in second place, leaving the rest mentioned – Wilson, Attlee, MacMillan and Major in single figures.

    But more interesting from today’s straight-down-the-line and oh-so-honest Tories is what Tim Montgomerie FAILS to tell us.  Even one of his own commenters is moved to point this out:

    ‘Chris said…

    I see you forgot to mention that more people rated her as a worst Prime Minister than Blair in the question of “Who do you regard as the worst” in the same poll…

    Being very divisive is usually considered bad…’

    Here are the rest of the questions, and their numbers, with my quick, unvarnished, in other words FAIR, analysis below each:


    Q1: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to publish his memoirs. Thinking back to his time in office, do you think Tony Blair…
    Was a very good Prime Minister and achieved many successes – 11
    Was a fairly good Prime Minister – his successes outnumbered his failures – 38
    Was a fairly poor Prime Minister – his failures outnumbered his successes – 28
    Was a very poor Prime Minister and can be blamed for many failures – 18
    Don’t know – 5

    In other words almost 50% (49%) thought Blair was very or fairly good and was more of a success than a failure. Thinking the opposite were 46%, with 5% of no opinion.


    Q2: Since the second world war, six Prime Ministers have served for five years or longer. Which of them do you regard as the BEST Prime Minister?
    Margaret Thatcher (Conservative, 1979 to 90) – 35
    Tony Blair (Labour, 1997 to 2007) – 21
    Harold Wilson (Labour, 1964 to 70 and 1974 to 76) – 9
    Clement Attlee (Labour, 1945 to 51) – 6
    Harold Macmillan (Conservative, 1957 to 63) – 5
    John Major (Conservative, 1990 to 97) – 2
    Don’t know – 25

    Here, the question Conservative Home leapt upon with relish, Thatcher leads Blair by 14%. But a quarter of those asked say they DON’T know. The biggest, and perhaps wisest (or least opinionated) number of all the “don’t knows” throughout the poll questions.  The question is, since the others are not likely to recover from their low numbers, how many of these “don’t knows” will drift to Blair rather than to Thatcher in the next ten years?


    Q3: And who do you regard as the WORST Prime Minister?
    Margaret Thatcher (Conservative, 1979 to 90) – 31
    Tony Blair (Labour, 1997 to 2007)  – 21
    Harold Wilson (Labour, 1964 to 70 and 1974 to 76) – 9
    Clement Attlee (Labour, 1945 to 51) – 1
    Harold Macmillan (Conservative, 1957 to 63)  – 2
    John Major (Conservative, 1990 to 97)  – 17
    Don’t know – 21

    So, 10% more thought Thatcher was the worst than those who thought Blair was the worst?!?!? Doesn’t quite tie in with the answers in Q2 where Thatcher led Blair by 14% as “best”. This question of who was the worst has Thatcher leading Blair by 10%. It seems to depend on the emotivity of the words used in the question. Thatcher and Blair both produce strong responses, support and its opposite. Again as with the previous question there is a chance that Blair may be reckoned worse than Thatcher in the fullness of time. Or of course, the opposite could happen.


    Q4: Thinking of Tony Blair as Prime Minister, was he… Mainly honest or mainly dishonest?
    Mainly honest – 46
    Mainly dishonest – 39
    Don’t know – 15

    So, that’s almost half thinking he was MAINLY HONEST, 7% more than thought he was mainly dishonest. And 15% “don’t knows”. Room for movement here too, either way.


    Q5: Mainly likeable or mainly not likeable?
    Mainly likeable – 59
    Mainly not likeable – 33
    Don’t know – 8

    Well over half thinking he was mainly likeable and a third thinking he was not likeable. A difference of 26% in his favour.


    Q6: Mainly principled or mainly unprincipled?
    Mainly principled – 52
    Mainly unprincipled – 33
    Don’t know – 15

    Over half thinking he was mainly principled and as above a third thinking he was the opposite.


    Q7: A good representative or a bad representative for Britain internationally?
    A good representative for Britain internationally – 53
    A bad representative for Britain internationally – 35
    Don’t know – 13

    Over half thinking he was a good representative for Britain internationally, 18% more than thought the opposite.


    Q8: Do you agree or disagree with this statement: ‘Whatever you think of his policies, as Prime Minister Tony Blair always did what he thought was right.’
    Agree – 66
    Disagree – 21
    Don’t know – 12

    Over two thirds agreeing that he always did what he thought was right. THIS was Blair’s highest score. At 66% there are two thirds of those responding who thought he always did what he thought was right. THIS is highly significant. Especially as only 21% think the opposite. The difference there is 45%.

    If you jumped here to have a quick reminder of Q8, jump back to the end

    Q9: Which THREE of the following would you judge to have been the greatest successes of Mr Blair’s time as Prime Minister?
    Introducing the minimum wage – 54
    Bringing peace to Northern Ireland – 46
    Providing Britain with steady economic growth, nearly full employment and low inflation – 24
    Improving the quality of public services such as education and the NHS – 23
    Extending gay rights and introducing civil partnerships – 16
    Toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq – 15
    Devolving power to Scotland and Wales – 10
    Bringing the Olympic Games to London – 9
    Reducing the overall levels of crime – 7
    Leading the world in the fight against climate change – 6
    None of these – 12

    So, despite Blair being labelled as the right-winger inside New Labour, AND despite Brown being seen by some as the main mover behind such societal changes, over half judge that introducing the minimum wage was his greatest success. Peace in Northern Ireland, too scored very highly.


    Q 10: And which THREE of the following would you judge to have been the greatest failures of Mr Blair’s time as Prime Minister?
    Allowing immigration to rise to unacceptable levels – 62
    Taking part in the US-led invasion of Iraq – 56
    Allowing Britain’s foreign policy to be dictated, in effect, by the United States – 34
    Bringing political life into disrepute as a result of ‘spin’ and episodes like ‘cash for honours’ – 26
    Not doing enough to curb public spending during good economic times – 21
    Allowing Gordon Brown to succeed him as Prime Minister – 21
    Not carrying out his promise to be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ – 20
    Raising taxes but without the country having much to show for it – 18
    Failing to take Britain into the euro (the single European currency) – 5
    Failing to tackle climate change with sufficient vigour – 4
    None of these – 1
    Don’t know – 7

    At 62% Blair’s immigration policy is clearly unpopular with almost two thirds of respondents. And the Iraq invasion is not that far behind. ‘Spin’ is only seen as important by about a quarter.


    Q 11: Many years from now, how do you think history will rate Mr Blair as Prime Minister? Will he be thought in the future to have been –
    A very great Prime Minister – 4
    A pretty good Prime Minister -28
    A mediocre Prime Minister – 32
    A pretty bad Prime Minister – 17
    A disastrously bad Prime Minister – 13
    Don’t know – 6

    Not all that good for Mr Blair here, with only 32% rating him great or pretty good.  But cast your minds back to the deep contempt that many if not most had for Thatcher until recently, when her legacy is being re-examined and re-assessed. He may, at this stage of his life be content with 60% judging him as pretty good or mediocre. The number who rated him positively here – i.e. very great/pretty good/mediocre is 64%. Those who see him as pretty bad/disastrously bad number only 30%.  I’m sure he can live with that.


    Q 12: The Labour party are currently electing a new leader. Some of the candidates have sought to distance themselves from the former Blair government, while others want to continue with the policies of New Labour. Which of the following best reflects your view –
    To get back into power Labour need to distance themselves as much as possible from the legacy of Tony Blair’s
    government – 30
    Tony Blair did a lot right and won three elections – it would be a mistake for Labour to turn its back on his legacy – 34
    Neither – 21
    Don’t know – 15

    A tight judgement here, but still in Blair’s favour. A large number of “neither/don’t knows” – 36%. Again, as above, time will tell if New Labour should have been preserved or if Ed Miliband’s Newer/Oldish/Newish Generation Labour is really what the country needs.


    There were 12 question in this poll. But here, just to keep sharp-eyed Tory readers happy (personally, I belong to no political party) is the one that got Tories excited at Conservative Home.

    Q2: Since the second world war, six Prime Ministers have served for five years or longer. Which of them do you regard as the BEST Prime Minister?
    Margaret Thatcher (Conservative, 1979 to 90) – 35
    Tony Blair (Labour, 1997 to 2007) – 21
    Harold Wilson (Labour, 1964 to 70 and 1974 to 76) – 9
    Clement Attlee (Labour, 1945 to 51) – 6
    Harold Macmillan (Conservative, 1957 to 63) – 5
    John Major (Conservative, 1990 to 97) – 2
    Don’t know – 25

    Just for the exercise I’ve decided to do a rough average of these poll questions results. And here it is:

    Eight of the twelve poll results came out in most or at least some areas in Tony Blair’s favour. Some surprisingly so, even for me.

    He had more than 50% score positive in SIX of the twelve; those which were measurable in this way. Some, like Questions 9 & 10, are not so measurable, due to their multiple-choice nature.

    And his top score was this, Q.8 –  “always did what he thought was right” – with 66% agreeing. (Jump back for a quick reminder)

    That’s an amazingly high number, given the onliners who think the world and its brother largely don’t think Mr Blair did or thought or believed ANYthing right. Less than a third of that – just 21%  – hold the opposite opinion of Blair. That is by far the greatest discrepancy between positive answers and negative answers in all of the poll questions.

    Odd how Tim Mongomerie wasn’t interested in any of that. Especially odd when David Cameron and George Osborne are both said to refer to Tony Blair as “The Master”.

    This praise indeed WAS reported at the link below, and is suddenly NOT to be found.  Hmmm… not even in the cached version. Still, I caught a glimpse of Cameron tonight at the Mansion House. He’s learning. Funny at the start, effortlessly gliding into the serious stuff.  The Master couldn’t be more proud of you, Dave.


    Live: David Cameron speech – Silobreaker

    The Master. To a meeting tonight where the former Labour MP Chris heard David Cameron and George Osborne referring to Tony Blair as ” “.

    This poll and its findings will cheer up John Rentoul’s blubberers here no end, I’m sure.

    The know-alls, as usual, know NOTHING.

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    Recent comments:

    “All countries need a leader who isn’t afraid to fight terrorism. I believe Mr. Blair did a necessary job in helping his allies. Are we all just supposed to lie down and wait for them to come for us, I don’t think so.”

    And – “Mr. Blair is one of the finest politicians to have had the privilege of serving the United Kingdom, and Britons are fortunate to have had him as their Prime Minister. Time will show that Mr. Blair’s approach to affairs in the Middle East were and remain correct. From a member of the Commonwealth, thank you, Mr. Blair, for your continued service to legitimate and lasting (and not convenient or politically expedient) freedom.”

    AND – “Tony Blair was the greatest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill and the only regret I have he didn’t get my vote as I live in Canada.”

    AND – “I am sick and tired of television and radio interviewers asking the same old questions over and over, regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq, presumably they hope Mr Blair will let slip some secret information which they would then use against him. History will show if the decision was the right one, (I believe it was) but people must accept that Tony Blair is an honourable man, and made his decision based on the known facts and not with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.”

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    6 Responses to “Poll: More than two thirds believe that Tony Blair did what he thought was right”

    1. wien1938 Says:

      Well, one of the strengths of polling is that it enables the political geeks like ourselves to gauge the opinions of the majority of people.
      It is very amusing to watch Tim Montgomerie’s contortions to put an anti-Blair spin on this!

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Yes, wein1938, and if Tim Montgomerie hadn’t raised this poll, I probably would never have looked into it.

        Selectivity is the badge of dishonour of some, isn’t it?

        I must admit that even I was surprised to find how well Blair came out of much of this. I agree, of course, that he should have come out of it this well, but given the horrendous exaggeration and simple LYING over his popularity or lack of by the wallies such as at Rentoul’s site here it makes a pleasant read. In time many of those still unsure of the Iraq decision will also come round to seeing that it was the right thing to do. I just hope they come round in his lifetime, and not forty years hence.

    2. Peter Reynolds Says:

      Come on now, ol’ Tone should be grateful to be mentioned alongside Margaret Thatcher. Don’t push his luck!

    3. Stan Says:

      What’s most interesting to me as a Labour man is that amongst Labour supporters Blair’s positive ratings are over 60% in almost all categories.

      So much for the myth put out by the left that Blair is detested by Labour people because he betrayed our progressive values.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Yes, Stan. I have not posted ALL the information, but of course the breakdown is at the YouGov site, which is where you have found this fact.

        That was one of the reasons I was so disappointed that more Labour people did not stand up to defend him in September 2006 when he made it clear that he was being pushed out of office, saying in that school interview “I’d rather have done this in my own way”. The Labour party, of which as you know I am not a member, REALLY let him and the rest of us down then.

        And NOW look what we’ve got in power!

        Btw, this is a good interview of Blair in Canada last week. I’m listening as I write. Will probably use it at the blog later.

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