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He’s back, and as ambitious as ever

Dan Kitwood/Getty

“Have you missed Tony Blair?” asks Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph. It’s been 16 years since he departed the political stage and “started a new life advising Kazakh dictators”. Compared to other ex-PMs – Margaret Thatcher, who worked on her memoirs; Gordon Brown living in “obscurity in Fife” – Blair always had “far bigger ambitions”. His first outfit, Tony Blair Associates, was dissolved seven years ago having served “various emirs, oligarchs and despots”. Now he has the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change: 750 staff in 40 countries, offering “Blairism for the planet”. But while they have been active everywhere from Nigeria to San Francisco, there is one country that has, so far, resisted Blair’s “clutches”: his own. “That may be about to change.”

The Institute has embarked on an “audacious” new project: “The Future of Britain”. Keir Starmer, a key speaker at the scheme’s conference last week, “doesn’t have very many ideas or contacts”, and Blair stands “ready to oblige”. Some of the 70-year-old’s New Labour donors – the likes of Lord Levy and Lord Sainsbury – are “paving the financial road” back to No 10. And the former PM himself is now openly mulling “the best role for me to play” when Labour returns to power. He is back in his “old habit of composing long Sunday night memos”, and hawking ideas about digital identity cards and AI regulation (though not revealing whether the firms that would benefit from them are helping fund the Institute). Blair bemoaned last year the “gaping hole in the governing of Britain where new ideas should be”. If he wants to fill that hole, “he’s now in the perfect position”.