David Blackburn

Aside from saving Gordon Brown, twice, what’s Peter Mandelson ever done for us?

Aside from saving Gordon Brown, twice, what’s Peter Mandelson ever done for us?
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For such a Big Beast, Ken Clarke’s speech this afternoon was very pedestrian. Admittedly, the subject matter, cutting red tape for small businesses, was unlikely to inspire a carnival of Churchillian wit and verve. However, Clarke did provide activists with a whiff of red of meat: he trashed Mandelson’s come back.

"Yes, I agree with him - responsibly and in the national interest - agree with him on the future of Royal Mail.  We agreed with him when he took his Bill through the House of Lords.  And what happened?  That weak and dithering Prime Minister – Gordon Brown - has stopped him bringing his Bill into the House of Commons.

"Peter Mandelson’s boldest policy is now a symbol of paralysed indecision while the Royal Mail slips into insolvency and strikes.

"So where has Peter Mandelson made his biggest mark on British politics so far?  Ironically he is the man who saved Gordon Brown from the incompetent plotters in the Labour Party who were trying to overthrow him twelve months ago.  That was the whole point of the Mandelson come-back.  But for Peter Mandelson, Britain would have thrown off the burden of Brown as Prime Minister.  Why, oh why did you do that Peter?"

Despite his Wolseyian portfolio, the Kindly Pussycat has failed to shape policy. He failed to save Vauxhall from German competition and the Royal Mail is an ongoing fiasco, to name but two glaring failures from this latest shimmie up the greasy pole. (Although, it’s probably wise to reserve overall judgement until the outcome of his Chinese trade negotiations becomes clear.)

The reception Mandelson received last week disclosed his centrality to the Labour party, and his peaceful quashing of the June plot was no mean feat. Despite his very obvious political failings, his public persona and his unabashed tribalism, Mandelson’s genius as a political fixer and schemer might have a shelf-life beyond the next election. As the nation pursues economic recovery, could Mandelson do for British commercial interests what he did for Labour?