Lord Mandelson

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.

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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? Read more

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

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. Read more

Jim Pickard

Irwin Stelzer in the Telegraph

Philip Stephens in the FT Read more

Jim Pickard

Here is my exclusive from this morning’s FT. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Read more

Jim Pickard

I reported earlier in the week that Peter Slowe, chair of the Labour Finance & Industry Group, was out and about calling for Mandelson as prime minister. Since then I have enjoyed a coffee with Mr Slowe – who could not have been more explicit about his cunning planRead more

Jim Pickard

Lord Mandelson recently batted away the prospect of his becoming Labour leader by pointing out that he couldn’t leave the House of Lords. (I am trapped. I believe it is for life.”) . Since then, of course, the legislation has been changed – co-incidentally they say – for peers to become commoners again. Read more

This seemingly harmless logo, replete with an upwardly mobile Union Flag, has sparked a terrific Whitehall squabble.

It is a Mandelson seal of approval that is likely to appear on every idea, plan, proposal and initiative the government produces in coming months. Read more

Jim Pickard

A hat tip to Threadneedles (one of our readers) for pointing out that Lord Mandelson has been made “First Secretary of State” – which means he is the new deputy prime minister.

It’s on Wikipedia already so it must be true (ed: this is gentle irony). Here is Wiki’s definition of the honorific title.  Read more

Jim Pickard

We predicted a month ago that Lord Mandelson would shortly use the pensions threat “to cow the unions into submission” over part-privatisation.

Last night saw the release of a letter from the chair of the pension fund trustees warning that - without radical reform - pensioners could lose half their benefits. The timing is striking at best given that the bill is set to enter the Lords this Thursday.

Here was our news story this morning – which includes a private sector estimate of £10bn-plus for the deficit, far worse than the £5.9bn envisaged by Richard Hooper in his December report.

If you want to see the letter here it is. Read more

Jim Pickard

mandelson-headphones.jpgI wrote at the weekend that Lord Mandelson may be able to use the threat of final salary pension closure as a stick to beat Royal Mail workers into accepting part-privatisation.  

John Ralfe, the pensions guru, believes that workers’ cast iron pensions could be doomed either way. “As soon as the government addresses the pensions issue - with or without privatisation – they have to effectively involve state aid,” he says. Read more

Amid all the Obamania, don’t miss Sue Cameron’s column today. She says Gordon Brown was casting around for other Blairite figures to join the cabinet before lumping with Peter Mandelson.

I am told that the newly ennobled Peter Mandelson was not Mr Brown’s first choice when he started looking for a Blairite to balance out his cabinet in last month’s reshuffle. Apparently, when Mr Brown decided to bury the hatchet with followers of Tony Blair, the former prime minister, the man he asked first was the former Blairite cabinet “enforcer” Alan Milburn. Word is that Mr Milburn turned him down, saying unkindly that the prime minister was “a disaster”. (I have deleted expletives as we do not want any BBC style “edginess”.) So was Lord Mandelson GB’s second choice? Er . . . no. Read more

Amid the furore over George Osborne’s meeting with Oleg Deripaska, it is worth highlighting what the shadow chancellor thinks about people who made their money in Russia during the wild 1990s.

In a speech to Demos in late August, Mr Osborne said: “In the free-for-all of Russia in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of communism, instead of fair reward for effort we saw the unfair wholesale transfer of state resources to individuals.” Read more

reubenbrothers.jpgThere’s lots of talk in Westminster over Peter Mandelson’s meetings with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who owns the world’s biggest aluminium producer.

This makes Mr Deripaska the third aluminium tycoon to have played a walk-on role in British politics. Read more

Jim Pickard

Here is an excellent piece of analysis from former FT political editor Brian Groom. He was six years early, but his prediction was still correct.  

NATIONAL NEWS – ‘Prince of Darkness’ may return once more.
 By BRIAN GROOM.
 446 words
 20 June 2002
 Financial Times Read more

Jim Pickard

Alastair Campbell’s diaries have numerous references to Gordon Brown’s dislike of Peter Mandelson and vice-versa:

“TB (Tony Blair) also spoke to Peter M and said he wanted him to meet GB tonight and sort a few things out. He said if they did not work together he would have to take drastic action, because he was not prepared to let them bring the whole show down.” Read more

Jim Pickard

This is the explosive news this morning. Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, will return to government as business secretary.

It’s a shocker because of a] Mandelson’s “Blairite” status and b] the animosity – which may or may not be historic – between him and Gordon Brown. Read more