Much sackcloth-and-ashing afoot this morning, after Tony Blair insisted comments in which he appeared to say Ed Miliband could not win the election were "misinterpreted".
His denial, on Twitter, came a day after the publication of an interview in The Economist, in which Blair was quoted as saying Miliband had swung too far to the right to win the election.
The result in 2015, he quips, could well be an election “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”. Asked if he means a Tory win, Mr Blair confirms: “Yes, that is what happens.”
In the interview, Blair added that "I am still very much New Labour and Ed would not describe himself in that way… I am convinced the Labour Party succeeds best when it is in the centre ground".
He also said that among the lessons he had learned from winning elections, "not alienating large parts of business, for one thing" was vital. Some of Miliband's policies, including a mansion tax and cracking down on tax arrangements for large firms, have been regarded as "anti-business", to such an extent that in March, CBI president Sir Mike Rake warned that Miliband was a "danger to the economy".
But today Blair's office clarified Blair had not meant the comments as criticisms of Miliband, tweeting that he "fully support[s]" him.
TB: "My remarks have been mis-interpreted, I fully support Ed and my party and expect a Labour victory in the election."— Tony Blair Institute (@InstituteGC) December 31, 2014
This isn't the first time Blair, who led Labour to three election victories, has hinted that he is less than pleased with Miliband's leadership. In October, it was reported he had told friends Miliband "cannot" beat David Cameron at the next election.
Anne McElvoy, public policy editor at The Economist, tweeted that the meaning of Blair's comments had been "v. clear".
1) Re Mr Blair and claim he is "misinterpreted" re Ed;s elex chances. Meaning was v clear. He hoped Lab wd win, if it stayed in the centre— anne mcelvoy (@annemcelvoy) December 31, 2014
2) “But feared an election "in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional resul”— anne mcelvoy (@annemcelvoy) December 31, 2014
3) And asked if that meant a Tory win: “Yes, that is what happens”. So he may be hopeful, but not convinced of Ed's election triumph— anne mcelvoy (@annemcelvoy) December 31, 2014
Is it us, or is that the smell of 2015's first Twitter spat brewing…?