Monday 7 March 2011

Peter on Ed, George, Tony and Gordon

Peter Mandelson's new paperback edition of The Third Man contains a long and very readable commentary on post-election politics, which is considerably more extensive than the form demands, as the author takes his opportunity to put his response to the controversies sparked by the book's publication last summer. Various bits of this were exclusively unveiled around various blogs a week ago - and commented on here on Next Left - but there is a great deal more in the full text, where both allies and adversaries of the author, and everyone else in between, may will find that every other paragraph says something worth quoting or at least arguing about.

Mandelson's account of the Coalition and Labour's challenges in responding to it merit a more serious treatment, so I hope to return to its take on political strategy on this blog another time.

But the new chapter is also strewn with eye-catching anecdotes about the author's close and complex relationships with leading political figures.

An olive branch for George Osborne

Mandelson has an olive branch for his old adversary Chancellor George Osborne.

Mandelson rather wryly notes of what he calls their "tussle" in 2008 that "the scrap did not last long. It ended well with first me and, more gradually, George coming out of it unscathed".

Still, I wonder if Mandelson's account of Osborne's heir to Blair enthusiasms will prove entirely helpful to the Chancellor, particularly as he turns the original charge of poison around.

"The most significant aspect of 'Corfugate' was what George and I had talked about - or, more accurately, what George had said, since I did more listening than talking. He was preoccupied, at first, with Gordon, with whom he shared a huge mutual dislike. But he opened up about how he and Cameron had studied New Labour in building their own 'New Tory' project. He described the need to drain their party of its Thatcherite 'poison' and added that one of the many things they had learned from us was the need for him and Cameron, at all costs, to remain a seamless team, and never to become rivals".

Mandelson would want to serve in an Ed Miliband government

"I would be dishonest if I pretended that I want to opt out of this and other national political conversations - or indeed of being some part of what I hope will be a future Ed Miliband government, in coalition or otherwise".

Mandelson writes earlier in the chapter that the criticisms of all of the leadership contenders did "sting a bit", and that he did "wince slightly, as well as smile, at Ed Miliband's clever quip when asked about the prospect of my playing a future role in Labour. 'All of us', he replied, 'believe in dignity'. But none of it hurt too much, or for too long. I understood the politics behind it".

On Ed Miliband's baby not being named Peter

Mandelson writes of how he was close to Ed Miliband after returning to London to join the Cabinet in 2008. (At conference 2009, Ed's Milibandwagon momentum had made him reportedly the favoured future leadership candidate of Mandelson, as well as of Derek Simpson).

"Ed went out of his way to befriend me and I reciprocated. He lived near me then, in Primrose Hill, and we would meet up and go for pleasant walks in the park, often with his partner Justine ... When they had their first child, I even - jokingly - pressed them to name him Peter. They decided on Daniel so I personally christened him Daniel Peter: 'DP' for short.

Advice for Ed M after his victory

Mandelson writes that campaign hatchets were quickly buried and "the affection I had felt for him flowed back".

"I tried to offer my opinions in a way that would not sound overbearing. Still, I did wonder whether, in Ed's mind, my 'elder statesman' views were simply past their sell-by date.

In the days that followed I sent him a few emails and texts with various ideas, including for staffing his office. He responded gracefully, but in the end went with his own instincts and preferences. This was not a bad thing ... all leaders need a team that they know well and trust implicitly".

On hoping to rebuild links with Gordon again one day

Mandelson writes that Tony Blair was generous in his response to a somewhat inconveniently timed publication - "Tony told me a few days later that he could understand the hysteria surrounding the serialisation - Blairspeak for an admission that he had done a fair amount of grimacing himself. But having read the book, he said he had found it to be a 'good, honest and balanced account".

Mandelson says he fully understands why Gordon Brown's reaction was different, immediately after Labour's election defeat, and "a chilly, trademark period of silence followed ... I was plainly in his doghouse again".

But Mandelson hopes that the latest period of "turbulence" in the Peter-Gordon relationship will at some point pass as well.


Robert said...

Lets hope then if Mandy does get back into politics in government he is about ninty then, and Mailiband is dreaming.

Unknown said...

Is there not a place for People like Peter Mandleson? You know? big hole.. darkness... hmm... abyss... silence.... ? No? Awww... pity.