James Forsyth

Mandelson the maestro

Mandelson the maestro
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If you have a few minutes, do read the transcript of Peter Mandelson’s exchange with the FT. Whatever you think of his politics, it is a masterclass in how to handle this kind of interview.

Apart from Mandelson’s comments on spending, a couple of other things jumped out at me. Mandelson advances a new attack on the Tory policy on public services: “They seem to have entered a Faustian pact with public sector producer interests. Their message is, quote, we will spend less on you, but require you to reform less and change less…. David Cameron offers the soft option on public sector reform. This may be because they are fishing for votes, or simply because they care less about the public services.” This is obviously balderdash when it comes to education where the Tories are planning to be truly radical, but there is a certain truth to it when it comes to health policy. Too often Andrew Lansley gives the impression that he believes that what’s good for the BMA, is good for Britain.

On the Royal Mail, Mandelson is clearly climbing down because he knows Brown is too weak to confront the inevitable Parliamentary rebellion. The idea that the legislative timetable is just too full to fit it in is absurd. 

Mandelson’s thinking about his own future also seems to be changing. Back in April, he told The Times “I think time has run out for me” in terms of achieving his various ambitions. But he tells George Parker that after the election, he “would like to either continue in this department or take on another.” It is far more likely that Labour will lose the next election than win it. But even if Labour loses, I expect Mandelson will continue to play a key role. His loyalty to Brown and the quality of his advice to him has established his right to be listened to right across the party.

PS This exchange seems to sum up the new, more confident Mandelson:

FT: I’m sure this is another thing that’s never crossed your mind, but I think last time we spoke I put to you this point about some Labour MPs – unlikely Labour MPs – said they were learning to love you, and that Tony Blair prophecy was in danger of coming true.

PM: I didn’t blow a kiss, by the way, to Geraldine Smith [Labour MP who admitted “learning to love” Peter Mandelson]. I smiled bashfully.


Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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