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”.
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.