You have to admit it, nobody does it better. Tony Blair gave a masterclass performance this morning. Forget the negative spin the Tories are attempting to put on his speech, the points he raised are the ones they are going to have to answer in the coming weeks
As I always used to say when some in our ranks urged a mantra of "time for a change" in 1997, it is the most vacuous slogan in politics. "Time for a change" begs the question: change to what exactly? And the reason an election that seemed certain to some in its outcome is now in sharp contention lies precisely in that question.
When it comes to the big policy issues, there is a puzzle, that has turned into a problem, that has now become a long, hard pause for thought: where are they centred? Is there a core? Think of all the phrases you associate with their leadership and the phrase "you know where you are with them" is about the last description you would think of.
On Europe, they've gone right when they should have gone centre. On law and order, they've gone liberal when actually they should have stuck with a traditional Conservative position. And on the economy they seem to be buffeted this way and that, depending less on where they think the country should be, than on where they think public opinion might be.
But Blair has done something more than take the fight to the Tories head on. His speech also sent a powerful reminder to his party that, if they lose, the New Labour agenda must be continued. In a subtle way he was endorsing David Miliband as the next leader.
At the end of the day the challenge Blair set the Labour party and Gordon Brown in 2006 is still shining in neon lights:
If we can't take this lot apart in the next few years we shouldn't be in the business of politics at all.
The brakes have finally come off Labour's election winning machine. Blair's carefully crafted speech has launched Labour's bid for a fourth term.
It remains to be seen if Brown and Mandelson can now “take this lot apart”.