Sunday, October 05, 2008
A whiff of sulphur
Regular transatlantic reader of this blog Paul Cain has asked me via the comments for my thoughts on the return to frontline UK politics of Peter Mandelson. I gather from Paul's comments ("a day of infamy") that he's less than impressed.
Certainly large swathes of the right-wing press have been reacting rather like a maiden aunt who's been goosed by the gardener.
For me, I thoroughly welcome the return of one of the "big beasts" of the New Labour project. Let's not forget Mandelson was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing in the investigation into his second Cabinet resignation. And unlike Jeffrey Archer, to whom Paul compares him, he's hardly been cooling his heels at Her Majesty's Pleasure since - in fact he's been a highly effective and respected Trade Commissioner at the EU.
I suppose we should have seen this coming since Conference. The visceral loyalty displayed there to the Prime Minsiter was led by some highly unexpected figures - not only was Mandelson sitting in the front row for Gordon's speech, but on the fringe 'blasts from the past' like Alistair Campbell and Derek Draper were beating the drum not only for party loyalty, but also taking the fight back to the Tories.
There's an excellent summary of the history of the Brown/Mandelson 90's feud by Andrew Rawnsley in today's Observer. At the end of the day, however, Mandelson in political terms is a strategic and tactical genius - anyone who needs reminding of the crucial role he played in the early days on New Labour should have a look at the excellent Soundbites and Spin Doctors by Nick Jones, which covers the period.
There's an argument in politics for taking the steps that your enemies would wish you didn't. If I was David Cameron this morning, I'd be a little less smug about my party's prospects at the next election.