I dropped into a speech by Lord Mandelson this evening organised by Progress at Portcullis House in Westminster. He was fairly calm and restrained, but made a few interesting points:
* Politics needs more people from the real world, not just party apparatchiks and former union chiefs in the Westminster bubble. Labour needs politicians “from every region and every social background,” he said. True – but the point would be more forceful coming from someone with a different background. Read more
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.
There are those who argue that Lord Mandelson’s intervention on behalf of David Miliband was counter-productive given his associations with the old New Labour project. Mandelson’s centre-ground modernising agenda is not to the taste of either unions or more radical activists.
Only last week he said that the manifesto, authored by Ed Miliband, failed to address the concerns of anyone other than natural Labour supporters. Read more
Lord Mandelson made clear in his recent autobiography that the last Labour manifesto, written by Ed Miliband, was not to his liking. It seemed to have been road-tested by Guardian columnists, he observed.
With this in mind, no one in Westminster should have been truly surprised by Lord Mandelson’s implicit decision to endorse the older, more Blairite David Miliband. Less predictable was that he would come out in public to slam the younger Ed. As Sam Coates reveals in today’s Times(£), Mandelson warned that if Mili-E wanted to “create a pre-new-Labour future” then he would quickly discover it was an “electoral cul-de-sac“. For the party to turn its back on New Labour would make it a minority force for the future, he said. Read more
You have to admire Ed Balls for his persistence. On this morning’s Today programme he suggested that the New Labour battles between the Brown and Blair camps were merely a spot of “creative tension” that led to “great achievements.”
Bear in mind that there were vicious screaming matches between the two men and periods where they were barely on speaking terms – creating dysfunction at the top of the government machine. Read more
It was a mite discourteous for Lord Mandelson to tell Times interviewer Ginny Dougary that he only read one newspaper – and it wasn’t hers.
Dougary did not disclose the name of the publication in question; we can only speculate.
The Times has not yet published online the first instalment of Mandelson’s diaries; but we can glean some of their content from that newspaper’s editorial for tomorrow morning.
Apparently, during the post-election coalition talks, Mandelson’s negotiating team was given an ultimatum by Clegg that a Lab-Lib coalition would be impossible unless Brown stepped down.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard this story*, but never before on the record from one of the negotiators. As the Times suggests, the idea leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth (whether or not you admire Brown); the leader of the third party proposing that Britain should be led by a prime minister a] not from the party with the most seats and b] who hadn’t led that party during the general election. Read more
Tonight’s big story had looked set to be Lord Mandelson’s big interview in the Times - ahead of the serialisation of his memoirs next week in that newspaper.
But his interview with Ginny Dougary – an attempt to get under the skin of the peer – does not seem to have been a huge success; judging by her own comments. At one point she describes his “abhorrence of laying himself bare.”
Elsewhere she suggests that his manners are “not all that brilliant” after he ignores her coughing fit. When she compliments him on his “amazing house” he replies defensively: “In what way, ‘amazing’?” Read more
An important meeting of Lib Dem MPs last night. Opinion has hardened in a number of areas:
Vince made his first intervention – in favour of the Tories So far Cable has kept his powder dry. He’s a former Labour man. But last night he acknowledged that those arguing for a Tory deal were probably right. (There was a wise crack about feeling he was being “set up” to wield the public spending axe.) As a senior figure representing the old-SDP wing, this is a significant development.
Labour need to make a much better offer There was some surprise at both the tenor and the substance of the negotiations with Labour. While Mandelson and Adonis seemed mustard keen on a deal, the others, particularly Balls and Miliband, showed much less enthusiasm. Whether on electoral reform or policy, the first formal meeting suggested they were well short of the Lib Dem policy shopping list. Danny Alexander and David Laws both conveyed this message to the meeting. The MPs demanded to hear if the other two negotiators agreed — and they did. Today’s Labour meeting will be crucial but there is a mountain to climb.
Opinion hardened towards backing a Tory deal There are powerful and senior figures in the party singing the praises of a Lib-Lab deal. It is a faction — including all the former leaders — that can’t quite resist the opportunity to realise Jo Grimond’s dream of a uniting Britain’s progressive forces. But the younger generation are less convinced. All of them would be more comfortable with a Labour deal. But there are worries about legitimacy, about Labour’s ability to deliver, about the good faith of Labour’s Medusa-like leadership. The middle ground is to explore all avenues with Labour. But the mood is with a Tory deal. Read more
So the election has left us in the middle section of a Jane Austen novel. Gruff Gordon and Dashing Dave are competing for the affections of Nubile Nick, a comely young thing, sadly living in somewhat reduced circumstances. Much of his estate is now entailed but by gosh he’s full of brio. And we don’t yet know if Nick is the “consent and supply” type.
But instead of secret billets-doux and private meetings, we are seeing the negotiations played out in public with all emotion laid bare rather than remaining satisfyingly buttoned-up. Of course if this were an Austen romance, we know the Lib Dem leader would end up choosing the gruff stand-offish suitor, having been led a merry and disappointing dance by the more polished Conservative leader. Read more