Tony Blair is back - but only until May's general election. The former prime minister's office told The Observer that Blair would lend Ed Miliband his full co-operation during the campaign, with the former Labour leader, who led the party to three consecutive Commons majorities, willing to "do whatever the party wants" to help secure victory in May. According to the newspaper, extensive talks over Blair's role have already taken place.
Blair's comments that fighting on a "traditional left-wing" platform was a recipe for defeat overshadowed Miliband's New Year message and forced the ex-PM to insist he had been misinterpreted and expected Miliband to follow him into Number 10.
And two of Blair's close New Labour allies - Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell - on Saturday countered claims that they "took soundings" from a potential replacement leader at the height of a plot to depose the Miliband. But the involvement of Blair - though controversial with sections of the party - may help calm nerves in the business sector.
A series of senior corporate figures have expressed concerns over the impact of a Labour win after the chief executive of Boots Stefano Pessina warned of potential "catastrophe" for the country. The sustained attacks and Miliband's fightback - dismissing Pessina as a Monaco-based tax avoider whose advice would not be welcomed by voters - appeared however to have done nothing to dent Labour's popularity.
The former prime minister who led the party to three consecutive Commons majorities "will do whatever the party wants" to help secure victory in May
A poll for the Observer showed the Opposition up one point from a fortnight ago on 34%, two ahead of the Conservatives, unchanged on 32%. Ukip dropped three points to 15% in the Opinium research while the Greens and the Liberal Democrats both moved up two points to 8% and 7% respectively.
Miliband remained significantly less well regarded than Tory Prime Minister David Cameron - with a satisfaction score of minus 26 to the PM's minus five.
Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, said Miliband "will make a very good prime minister" and suggested corporate leaders "will become much more reassured" about the Opposition's stance by the time of May's general election.
The peer accepted that more needed to be done to counter the impression being created but said the criticism was a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the party's position.
"We've got two months to show that he can make the case," he said. "I believe he has, but I believe there is a determination also to portray him in a very negative way."
He and ex-Downing Street media chief Campbell contacted Alan Johnson over speculation that he was being lined up by MPs seeking to oust Miliband. But both countered a claim in the Financial Times they "took soundings to see whether he was prepared to take over" insisting they did nothing more than ascertain from a friend that the rumours he was being lined up were untrue.