Posts Tagged ‘mandelson’

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Life imitating the Thick Of It

January 8, 2010

You do have to wonder what the hell they were playing at.

Gordon Brown is expected to capitalise on the complete collapse of Wednesday’s leadership coup by quickly handing out clear election campaign roles to leading cabinet ministers, including the key strategy role to Lord Mandelson. Uncertainty about Labour‘s election team is thought to lie behind some of the discontent inside the cabinet over his leadership.

I’m trying to imagine under what circumstances it would be a good idea to ditch your party leader four(ish) months before a General Election. But worse than that: what super-strength Blairite happy-juice would you need to have been drinking to think that, of the dismal selection available, someone genuinely any better for New Labour – more credible, more popular – than Brown might be found? Seriously: Miliband? Mandelson?  pffft.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it would seem even the statesmanlike Geoff Hoon can royally fuck up on occasion.

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New Labour’s ideological hit man

August 12, 2009

There’s an interesting detail in Decca Aitkenhead’s Monday interview with Peter Mandelson, in which Aitkenhead notes his peculiarity, in their conversation, of returning again and again to the same point in his past:

…it’s striking that Mandelson’s point of reference goes all the way back to 80s, the era he returns to in conversation unprompted, time and time again. “It was like the wild west,” he says nostalgically at one point. “It was tough.” Interestingly, he also says that, excluding his present position, his favourite ever job was as Labour’s campaign director back then.

This must seem, to most readers as well as the baffled interviewer, like “nostalgia” for a piece of ancient personal history: and who, after all, does not look back on some long (and successful) battle with a warm smile? No doubt the entitlement that Mandelson – quite literally – claims grows directly from the struggles of his (relative) youth. Because if Mandelson says he had to be the hit man, and that the battle against the Left in the Labour Party – never, tellingly, referred to as such in this interview – was “tough”, he is being entirely honest. New Labour cut its teeth in those battles. It formed itself out of the comprehensive, shattering defeat of a credible left in British politics – a defeat that Mandelson played a decisive role in.

But the popular image of Mandelson as merely a sinister manipulator, or superficial spin-merchant (tediously reprised here) was never accurate. The man himself identifies his real significance:

“Who was it who wrote the policy review in the late 80s? Me. Who presided over the creation – who was one of the architects of New Labour, and of that change in policy that created a new political force in the 90s? Me. Who enjoyed driving new policy as a minister at the beginning of this government, and is now doing so again? Me. So I’m certainly not a policy blank. My big preoccupation is policy.”

And it is this role he has returned to in government: here calling for “industrial activism” in the new, post-crash economy; there staking out a defence of government intervention. He has, since re-entering the Cabinet, been the only minister even beginning to take seriously the thought that the wheels had come off New Labour’s old, debt-and-property economic model.