Mandy is back and the “Celtic Secretary” is put off

Remember him? The Secretary of State who tilted back towards the Unionists after the love affair between Mo and the Shinners? Mandelson is back, “third time lucky”. No more popular south of the border than among nationalists in the north – “ Trade commissioner Peter Mandelson strongly criticised the Irish guarantee plan” and the enemy of Irish farmers, his returns seals off one of the oldest feuds in British politics. Fortunately for Mandelson, an interview he gave to the New Statesman last week, before he had any inkling of Gordon Brown’s intentions, gave no hostage to fortune. Gordon Brown may insist that he wants “serious people for serious times” but the real point of Mandelson is to circle New Labour’s wagons for the fightback. One less noticed footnote to the reshuffle… The job of Scottish Secretary becomes full-time again with the appointment of Jim Murphy to replace Des Browne who doubled up as Defence Secretary. As the FT’s Westminster blog confirms, the Prime Minister has put off yet again the long standing plan to replace the territorial secretaries of state with a single minister for the nations and regions. There’s more than enough to do fending off the forces of nationalism in the meantime. That means NI keeps Mandleson’s good friend Shaun Woodward in his post, until I guess, the notional time frame for the devolution of j&p and the pre-election reshuffle.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London