Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Prince of Darkness does an encore

Mandelson is back - saying he is 'joined at the hip' with Gordon Brown. What a hideous mental image. Peter is dismayed, finding this decision bizarre:
"Never mind the two forced resignations and the Millenium Dome, it is his politics that concern me. Very right wing, he was a celebrant of the zeitgeist that has just crumbled in the credit crunch. My faith in Brown's judgement has hardly been restored and my fears for the Labour Party have deepened. Depressing, deeply depressing."
I don't think it'll do anything for the Labour party's prospects either, although for slightly different reasons.

His politics don't concern me in the way they do Peter because what you could say about Mandelson you could say about Brown and the rest of them. Also, I think the concern about the place he occupies on the political spectrum is misplaced in the sense that this is not the only thing a Prime Minister has to take account of when he is appointing a Cabinet. Any Prime Minister is expected to reflect the broad range of opinion that is found in the Parliamentary party and any PM that appoints a preponderance of ideological soul-mates is doomed to failure. But - and this is the key point for me - there is no great ideological divide between these two men - their history, rather, has been the politics of pure personality and the clash of ambitions.

The appointment of Mandelson represents a willingness - desperation? - on Brown's part to put aside all this in the interests of defeating the Tories. For someone like Brown, baptized in the politics of loyalty that disfigures Scottish Labour politics, this is no small shift. Better to have your enemies in the tent pissing out rather than the other way around as LBJ said - or something like this. It is in this context stories like the one in the Sunday Times reporting that Mandelson 'dripped pure poison' into the ear of some unnamed 'senior Tory' should be dismissed as being penned from someone who has mistaken Cabinet politics for a dating agency.

Having said that, I think this strategy will fail for two reasons:

1) It's too little, too late. Brown has played the politics of personal loyalty for a decade. This is elastoplast over a festering wound.

2) It's like watching him trying to smile; he knows he now has to make an effort but it's just too damn late for him to learn at this stage. He just doesn't look natural doing it and the electorate sense this.

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