Daily Archives: February 2, 2011

Lord Mandelson has never been one to shy away from defending doomed politicians.

But it was still a surprise to see him riding to the support of reformers within the Mubarak regime — not least the president’s son Gamal.

In a fascinating letter to the FT, Mandelson argues that it is too “simplistic” to cast Gamal Mubarak as the “putative beneficiary of a nepotistic transfer of family power, the continuation of ‘tyranny’ with a change of faces at the top”.

He warns that this diverts attention from the hidebound military and intelligence service figures who are really exercising control behind the scenes.

These security forces, he says, have been engaged in a tug of war with Gamal — a man who “has been the leading voice in favour of change within the government and the ruling party”.

An “orderly transition” (did he ever use that phrase about Gordon Brown?) should involve forging an alliance between secular opposition figures and reformers like Gamal in the government, he adds.

The letter is in full below. Well worth a read. I’m not sure how much support it would garner on the streets of Cairo. But it certainly shows that Mandelson still has an appetite for unpopular causes.

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As far as I know he wasn’t on any of the bookmakers’ lists of contenders for new head of communications at Downing Street. It’s BBC executive Craig Oliver. I had never heard of him before but then I work in a more newspaper-centric world.

A colleague who has spent time with Oliver suggests that he has a rather “corporate” air, an impression confirmed by one of his former colleagues. “He was a hard guy to warm to,” says that person.

Meanwhile those who thought Cameron needed someone with an earthy Coulson-esque background (James Kirkup makes a compelling counter-case) will note that his new press chief attended a Scottish comprehensive. Read more

This time a week ago David Cameron struck an impressively statesmanlike tone at prime minister’s questions, as we noted at the time.

Today the exchange between the two leaders was again fairly dignified, with Ed Miliband raising international policy issues in the tone of someone who knew that the PM would agree with him. (eg Would he like to see an orderly transition to democracy in Egypt: answer, yes of course). Read more

How does the world look from Westminster? Foreign policy is woefully under-scrutinised in the UK, where governments can wage war and sign treaties without reference to parliament, and the limited attention it does receive could arguably be better directed.  Read more

My colleague Sue Cameron reveals that David Miliband was at a recent event where he said that many Labour types are optimistic that the current government will only last for a single parliament: “It’s what makes some of us seek to lead the party,” he said. The tense is rather revealing, as Sue points out in her must-read weekly column.

Miliband then asked Lord Healey if he thought there were parallels with Heath’s brief parliament in the 1970s: “No,” was the unwelcome response.

Hosni Mubarak’s attempt to delay his departure has uncanny echoes of another former world leader, Gordon Brown, who made a similar ploy last May after the Labour party came second in the general election.

As you may remember, the UK prime minister said that he would go…but not until September. Mubarak has given himself the same autumnal deadline, saying he will not run in the Egyptian elections this September. Read more