Today’s Guardian manages to wheedle out of Peter Mandelson what nobody else has, even during the hours of air time and acres of press coverage he has been given in the last few days.
In an interview with Patrick WIntour, Mandy admits what many Labour people have always thought:
He [Mandelson] is quite clear in the interview that Labour would be probably be in power now if it had been possible for Brown to be replaced by a consensual alternative.
“If you really force me, I think probably it would make a 20 to 30 seat difference to the result. They would have gone to 280 and we would have gone up to 270. They probably would have been the largest party, but not by a decisive margin.”
So why didn’t Mandelson and other cabinet ministers move against him when given the chance? The answer, it seems, is Ed Balls. Mandelson says:
“But it was also my guess that if Gordon stepped down and people got behind David Miliband, Ed Balls would have entered the contest, and before you knew where you were there would have been an ugly fight, not just between two people perceived to represent new and old Labour, which was the last thing we want.”
Was it really the fight Mandy feared, or more the prospect of Gordon Brown’s most pugnacious, and some say least media-friendly, ally in charge of the party and the country?