Lord Mandelson

So after a long night which rewarded those like me who stuck with it all the way through by delivering almost exactly the result predicted by the exit polls at 10pm, we now know that Nick Clegg will give David Cameron the first shot at forming a government.

Clegg’s decision to all but offer the keys to Number 10 to David Cameron is very interesting indeed. The Liberal Democrat leader must be bitterly disappointed this morning – in the end it was almost as if the debates that projected him to the electoral stratosphere never happened. He woke up and it was all a dream, which made it far harder for him to swagger around playing kingmaker. However, the decision effectively to cut Gordon Brown off at the knees so early is a surprising tactical move. 

In last night’s episode:

Gordon declared his love for Nick; but Nick doesn’t love Gordon and remembers that when he did love Gordon, Gordon didn’t love him. But Nick is quietly flirting with David Miliband and Alan Johnson, who’ve always liked him a bit more, while trying not to make it too obvious what he is up to in case all the people who like him at the moment stop liking him once they find out what he is up to. Also we’re not really that sure that Gordon does love Nick; we think he doesn’t really. 

Jim Pickard

So much for an end to class warfare in British politics. At this morning’s press conference the Labour trio (Mandelson, Balls, Burnham) insisted they were not in the business of negative campaigning, despite evidence to the contrary.* 

Jim Pickard

Unless you read the financial pages you may not be aware of Corporate Britain’s latest eye-catching payout: a £92m remuneration package for Bert Becht (not to be confused with Bertold Brecht). He is the chief executive of Reckitt Beneckiser, which makes products such as Vanish and Dettol.

To be fair, Becht has set up a charitable foundation to which he has given more than £100m. Even so; isn’t there an issue with this kind of payout just months after the credit crunch?

Vince Cable told me last night this was “extraordinary” and “unbelievable” and showed the often painful differential between the highest and lowest-paid workers. 

There’s been one more victim of wash-up: the law to allow Lord Mandelson to leave the Lords and return to the Commons.

The “resignation” rule has been dropped by Jack Straw in an attempt to push the constitutional renewal bill through the Lords (which is proving very difficult). 

Who reads election speeches? Certainly not voters and, mostly, not the journalists whose job you might imagine it is to report them. As an editor friend at the BBC tells me, news these days is all about “impact” rather than content; and, unless you are Barack Obama, speeches just do not do it.

But some speeches are worth a second glance. This – from Peter Mandelson – is one of them. 

Lord Mandelson is in charge of the Labour election campaign but, in reality, he has little choice but to work to Ed Balls’ playbook. The truth is that when the Tories promised to reverse part of the National Insurance tax rise, it turned this election into a big test of the Balls vision of British politics.

The origins of this lie in the November Pre-Budget Report, which set the cornerstone of the Labour message. Spending on schools went up in real terms, a great triumph for Balls at a time public sector cuts. The downside was that National Insurance had to rise. 

Jim Pickard

Tristram Hunt has been selected tonight as Labour candidate for Stoke Central with an overwhelming 50 votes out of 71. As we predicted quite a while back. (He made the shortlist on Monday.) 

Jim Pickard

Lord Mandelson hinted yesterday that taxes could have to go up in the next Parliament. It’s taken a little while for anyone in Labour to even mention the possibility. Two thoughts spring to mind.

 

My colleague Matthew Engel once joked that Peter Mandelson’s career was “the greatest political story yet to be told”. Every improbable twist seems part of a carefully laid plot. Could he really go on to become Labour leader? It is a big stretch to even imagine the scenario. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

Now just picture David Miliband becoming the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Think what would happen once he quit UK politics. Most speculation has centred on Mandelson claiming his birthright as foreign secretary. But could Miliband’s constituency be as appealing? 

The business secretary discusses whether Tony Blair has a realistic chance of getting the job. 

Jim Pickard

The rumour swilling around conference this morning is that the News International party last night was a rather strained affair; given that news broke of the Sun’s defection to the Tories half way through. Various cabinet ministers heard about the news as they were swigging Murdoch’s free beverages. Some observers later heard Lord Mandelson tell NI executives in no uncertain terms that they were out of line*. Apparently a c-word was used.  Mandelson has since insisted that the word in question was “chump”.

* The Sun’s move appears to have been timed for maximum political impact, just hours after Brown’s speech. The rumour is that new editor Dominic Mohan didn’t bother to tell GB (despite a phone conversation earlier yesterday) that the bombshell was primed. Mohan is not even here in Brighton. Meanwhile it’s interesting that the Scottish version of the Sun will not back the Conservatives.