Peter Hoskin

Has Mandelson given up on Brown?

Has Mandelson given up on Brown?
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For any Kremlinologists among us, Peter Oborne's latest column in the Mail sure is a juicy read.  It claims that Mandelson and Brown are "at war again" – only, this time, insiders say the damage to their relationship is "irreparable".  The Business Secretary is said to be "bitterly unhappy" with Labour's class war strategy, and with Brown's reluctance to deal with the fiscal crisis.  And – as Martin highlighted the other day – he wants out.

None of this is too surprising.  Indeed, Mandelson has been conspicuous by his absence from the government's PBR media drive, fuelling more than a few Westminster mumblings about his commitment to the Brownite cause.  The question doing the rounds now is what a disgruntled Mandelson might mean for Brown's immediate future: could this spell the end for our PM, even before the general election?

Myself, I think it's far, far more likely than not that Brown will lead his party into the next election.  But stories of a split with Mandelson could just give heart, and impetus, to people on Team Johnson or Team Miliband.  After all, it's said that Mandelson held the government together after James Purnell's resignation, last June, by calling ministers and urging them not to follow suit.  He may not be so keen to pick up the phone a second time around.