Mandelson: Gamal Mubarak a “leading” reformer

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.

From Lord Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool.

Sir, Bassma Kodmani puts her finger on the key point in Egypt today (“Army will craft a post-Mubarak era”, January 31). Although Hosni Mubarak and his ministers have provided the civilian façade to Egypt’s government, the military, security and intelligence services have exercised a lot of control and continue to do so. This is important to any wider understanding of what’s happening in the country.

To date, these forces have been a block to economic and democratic change, preventing the ministerial reformers in the administration from gaining the upper hand. This tug of war between the security forces and the ministerial reformers has been conducted around President Mubarak and, in recent years, has also focused on the role of his son, Gamal Mubarak, who has been the leading voice in favour of change within the government and the ruling party. Of course, it is easy to cast him as the putative beneficiary of a nepotistic transfer of family power, the continuation of “tyranny” with a change of face at the top.

This analysis, in my view, is too simplistic and the key to managing  a peaceful transition is for an alliance to be forged between civilian reformers within the previous government and leaders of the secular opposition parties, with or without the involvement of Gamal Mubarak.

It is precisely this development that the military, with all their vested commercial interests in the status quo, has not encouraged. It remains to be seen where and how it deploys its power next and how the public on the streets react to this.

Peter Mandelson,

House of Lords