The return of Tony Blair? Ex-Labour leader and prime minister ‘advising Matt Hancock on vaccines’

Former Labour leader and prime minister Tony Blair has been advising Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock on his vaccines strategy, it emerged today.

Mr Blair, who stepped down as leader and as an MP 13 years ago after 10 years in power, has become a powerful voice in the fight to use vaccines to allow the UK economy to come out of hibernation and save lives and livelihoods.

He has offered ‘strategic advice’ to the Cabinet minister several times during the pandemic, the Sunday Times reported today. 

It said he had also spoken with Haroness Harding, the much-criticised head of the test and trace programme. 

Mr Hancock did not deny the claim when asked today, saying merely that he ‘speaks to a lot of different people’. 

Mr Blair, who stepped down as leader and as an MP 13 years ago after 10 years in power, has become a powerful voice in the fight to use vaccines to allow the UK economy to come out of hibernation and save lives and livelihoods

Mr Blair, who stepped down as leader and as an MP 13 years ago after 10 years in power, has become a powerful voice in the fight to use vaccines to allow the UK economy to come out of hibernation and save lives and livelihoods

Mr Blair, who stepped down as leader and as an MP 13 years ago after 10 years in power, has become a powerful voice in the fight to use vaccines to allow the UK economy to come out of hibernation and save lives and livelihoods

He has offered 'strategic advice' to the Cabinet minister several times during the pandemic, the Sunday Times reported today

He has offered 'strategic advice' to the Cabinet minister several times during the pandemic, the Sunday Times reported today

He has offered ‘strategic advice’ to the Cabinet minister several times during the pandemic, the Sunday Times reported today

It said he had also spoken with baroness Harding, the much-criticised head of the test and trace programme

It said he had also spoken with baroness Harding, the much-criticised head of the test and trace programme

It said he had also spoken with baroness Harding, the much-criticised head of the test and trace programme

A friend of the former prime minister told the Sunday Times: ‘Tony believes deeply, as do many of the people around him, that he left office at the peak of his powers. 

‘He got better at governing as time went on. Ten years later, he is definitely animated by a burning feeling that the British governance is inadequate. He feels that he has the drive and ideas to change that.’

Last week Mr Blair said the UK needs to dramatically accelerate its coronavirus vaccination programme in order to lift lockdown rules in the spring.

Claiming ‘it’s not complicated’ on live TV he launched a ‘blue-print’ for improving the country’s vaccine roll-out. He restrictions could ease ‘significantly’ in February if the NHS scales up to millions of jabs every week.

As supplies flow into the country in the coming weeks, Mr Blair said, officials should strain every sinew to make sure every dose is used as soon as possible. He said there should be pop-up vaccine centres and mobile ones, that pharmacies should be used, and volunteers recruited en masse.

Mr Hancock today said it is ‘highly likely’ people will be vaccinated against Covid annually, as with the flu.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge oO Sunday programme: ‘I think it’s highly likely that there will be a dual-vaccination programme for the foreseeable, this is the medium-term, of flu and Covid.’

He added: ‘Flu vaccination rates are at their highest level ever. Over 80% of the over-65s have been vaccinated for flu this year. That’s the biggest increase, a jump on last year when it was around 70%.

‘That’s very good news. It’s good news for two reasons. Firstly, to protect people against flu and secondly because it shows the vast, vast majority of over-65s are up for getting vaccinated.’

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