Peter Hoskin

A dividing line that’s dividing government

Rachel Sylvester writes a fascinating portrait of the Brown-Balls-Mandelson relationship in the Times today, suggesting that Mandelson is on the opposite site of the spending cut fence from his two colleagues:

“The Business Secretary has always shied away from class war – he wants to appeal to posh and poor. He is instinctively suspicious of fighting another election on ‘investment versus cuts’ – a rehash of Labour’s past two campaigns, which took place in a very different economic climate. An interesting alliance has formed in Cabinet between Lord Mandelson and Alistair Darling, who argue that the Government has to be honest with the voters that there will be spending cuts whoever wins power.”

Of course, the Darling-Mandy axis is right on this one, but I’m sure Brown will stick to the same old dividing line anyway.  As Matt said yesterday, it’s simply the way the Dear Leader operates.  While he does so, the Tories should push the issue as much as possible.  Not only does it deserve a proper public debate, but they can make Brown crowd out the kind of positive government agenda that Mandelson would allegedly like to see with crass, ineffective talk of “Mr 10 percent”.  Chances are this could exacerbate Cabinet tensions, while also making it more difficult for Brown to back down to a more sensible position.  It’s certainly a combustive mix, and one which doesn’t augur well for the PM’s near-term future.

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