Mandelson has quite brilliantly exploited this media obsession with him. But by appointing Clarke to shadow him, the Tories have provided the press with another even better story: the clash of the returning big beasts, Clarke v. Mandelson. If you’re a booker, a studio debate between Clarke and Mandelson is now the ultimate get—its attractiveness is only heightened by the fact that the two will never actually go head to head in Parliament.
The Mandelson Clarke contest should be one that favours the Tories. Clarke has the weight, the experience and the debating skills to take on Mandelson. There’s also a potent contrast between Clarke’s un-spun demeanour, which is—of course—a form of spin it itself, and Mandelson.