Peter Hoskin

Mandelson and Miliband kick open the hornets’ nest

Mandelson and Miliband kick open the hornets' nest
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Oh joy, Labour are at war again.  The animosities which have largely been kept in check since the election are now piercing through to the surface again – and it's all thanks to Peter Mandelson's memoirs.  After the ennobled one's insights about Gordon and Tony in the Times yesterday, Charlie Whelan is shooting back from the pages of the Sunday Telegraph.  And, elsewhere, Brown is said to have told friends that "this is going to be a very difficult time for me."  Yep, it's just like the glory days of last summer.

Amid all this, there's a sense that Mandelson and David Miliband have coordinated their efforts to trash Brown and, by extension, his "advisers".  At the very least, it's a grim and convenient coincidence that Miliband should make that Keir Hardie lecture on the same day that the promotional drive for the Dark Lord's book kicks off in earnest.  Two mutually-supportive messages, each raising questions about the previous regime?  It looks awfully like a pincer movement.

Labour should be grateful, and a touch fearful, about this state of affairs.  As David noted yesterday, Miliband is doing something which is necessary for a deposed party: facing up to the failures of the past.  And that should help enliven a leadership contest which, until now, had failed to move on from the ideas and ideology of the Brown era.  But the MiliMandy combination threatens to push proceedings into civil war – and, lest if need saying, the ol' ferrets-in-a-sack routine is never particularly edifying.

In the end, I suspect the biggest beneficiaries of this will be the coalition government.  Just when they were starting to look a little rocky on their feet – with difficult stories about schools and the OBR – Labour are giving a demonstration of what the alternative looks like.  And it's certainly not pretty.