James Forsyth James Forsyth

Fighting words from Mandelson but is there a strategy behind them?

The Mandelson interview in today’s Observer is full of barbs at his internal opponents. Consider this exchange about the leaking of Cabinet discussions about the future of the Post Office:

‘”Unlike some of my colleagues, I don’t comment to the press on the internal discussions and workings of the cabinet and its committees.” So it was true. And then he was on the phone to Gordon Brown to have Harman put back in her box and everyone dragged into line? “I’m not commenting either way,” he twinkles. So that’s true as well.’

Mandelson appears absolutely determined not to back down regardless of how much of a split the proposals are causing in the Labour Party.

“I hope it doesn’t turn into a tug of war between the unions and the government with Labour MPs caught in the middle. But that’s how it’s beginning to look.”

Judging by his remarks, the Post Office has become a litmus test for Mandelson of whether Labour can still take the decisions that a governing party needs to take. But it is unclear how he thinks he will bring potential rebels back into the fold. He seems to be just relying on the hope that they will blink first.

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