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.

  • Ann

    Brian, am I reading this right? It’s a nice little post of stating the obvious isn’t it? Sometimes that is a very necessary thing to do, as most times most of us cannot see the hand in front of our face, but once the obvious is laid out theres nothing to take issue with, is there? Nothing partisian, nothing to get your teeth into.

    How about a good gnawing of Mandelson, a criticism of him for being the only person to have resigned twice and then be asked back? Surely that merits a BIG criticism? And what of the rest of the reshuffle? Is it a war cabinet, in your view? Will it do as you say and be able to circle the wagons for a labour fight back? Is it really possible for labour to fight its way back in the polls and in its heartlands?

    And what if Woodward is in post for the time being and poor Jim has been put off yet again, sure isn’t De Chastalin languishing away to the tune of two and a half grand a day….. for the money these politicos get I could quite easily languish away!

    C’mon don’t be so nice, bare your teeth – Grrr….. :)and give us something to start a nice little riot…

  • IRA/Sinn Fein

    Phonecall from IRA (don’t know if Sinn Fein are aware) to mandy:

    “Mandy, it’s us again. Can you set us up in Europe”

  • manichaeism

    When Irish ministers do something wrong they just ride it out and refuse to resign. British ones just resign temporarily. Seemingly the passing of a little time purifies them.

  • Yvette Doll

    There is no moral or ethical core to nu-labour, nor are they particularly deep thinkers.

    There is not a great deal of substance, to the typical Minister these days.

    When the press officer is more important than 95 percent of the elected MPs, you have a problem.

  • Brian Walker

    Ann, Sorry to disappoint. You’re free to gnaw at Mandy yourself, you know. But you raise an interesting point about blogging. I don’t think everything has to be polemical or argumentative. For what it’s worth, while a lot of polemic is great – sharp, eloquent and really witty, I think overall there’s too much of it, often the product of bright people feeling isolated in a dysfunctional society with lots of authoritarianism still left in it. It may be presumptuous but what I’m keen to encourage is for people to be more reflective, to analysis more — you know.. thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The Mandy piece is more a little diary item that people can bounce off as they please, or not. As it happens, I quite admire him. He wears his faults on his sleeve. I think they’re quite minor: vanity, arrogance, petulance, snobbery, but all with the saving grace of his own self deprecation with a hint of depression in the make-up. He shouldn’t have been fired last time and maybe not even the first. Although he made us squirm the way he said it, he’s not a quitter. And he is a brilliant political tactician who can see round corners like nobody else – though not on his own behalf. That’s fascinating surely. Whether he still got those gifts we’ll see.

  • Dewi

    Nothing to do with NI – but I’m astonished. Perhaps I’m entirely wrong but I just can’t see any upside of this. What am I missing?

  • Pete Baker


    The real danger for Brown in all this is encapsulated in the title of Nick Robinson’s post.

    Back to the future again.

    To which I would have added a question mark.

    This leaves Brown wide open to the accusation of having no new ideas.

  • DC

    I disagree Pete, I think Mandelson should be portrayed as the guy who can work for and on behalf of business yet work with business too to get some of that socialised debt back.

    A quid pro quo. I wouldn’t rule out a New Labour lurch to European values and correction of the Atlanticist approach that Blair embarked upon after 9/11 etc, America has discredited itself enough after Bush and the public opinion might be there to shore up European-leaning ideals (think better social attitudes to sensible drinking and drug taking, multi-lateral approaches via EU over important issues energy, environment, foreign policy). This approach would swerve Labour away from Tory ground. I know there is resilience towards Europe, however, how much more resentment is there towards USA now? The country that brought us the McDonald’s, franchises, hard-marketing towards consumers was always prone to blow as shit all over our faces.

    For once New Labour can look the business sector and business community in the face straight and say we backed you on capitalism and across America, now it’s time for that nick of a few more bob in higher taxes from the higher earners when the lowlands are approaching.

    Did you notice too that on Question Time the guy from the CBI said that 97% of UK people are covered by 50k deposits in banks. Typical then that it is the 3% earning or holding the excessive amounts (notice too Heseltine was arguing in the favour to offer more protection in that % bracket).

    Time for the wealthier to pay that bit more as New Labour has fought their cause with a friendlier face and look what has happened now with the socialising of financial debt (obviosuly different sector but it is business people than earn and create wealth which is where Labour need to get the mix right).

    There is no better Shylock than Mandelson to do that scratch my back your back move and to come out with the aim to get a few bob more and lessen the blow on the British taxpayer, overall.

  • Pete Baker


    “I think Mandelson should be portrayed as..”

    You mis-understand my point.

    It’s not about what New New Labour would prefer this to be portrayed as.

    It’s about what the re-importation of Old New Labour personnel opens them up to the accusation of.

  • Yvette Doll

    “Paul Myners, the chairman of the Guardian Media Group and former chairman of Marks & Spencer, has been made City minister.”

    What is a City minister? Did we have one of those before?

    “This is an extraordinary step backwards into the worst elements of the Blair era, to reinstate possibly the most divisive figure in Labour’s recent history”

    He is a pop star politician, that he is.

    However, I don’t see his work as doing the Labour Party any favors. When you cease to have tracks, under the wheels, the ambiguity is damaging to the shareholders, the rank and file.

    Yvette Doll

  • DC

    I don’t miss your point Pete, you miss mine in that Blair from around 98-2005 was sucked off course with the USA meaning the concept of New Labour with Blair at the helm was brought down with it.

    The import of ‘old’ New Labour is still durable as it was never fulfilled in full as the oxygen was sucked out in foreign affairs and Blair lost most of his agenda on the defensive over in his mind the utmost importance of protecting democratic idealism.

    The idea is that Mandelson is there to try and reconstruct the old New Labour structure that had disintegrated under Blair’s liberal interventionism, so that getting back on track might lessen the electoral blow.

    There’s is no shame in New Labour saying it put its faith and belief in capitalism and its managers, as did most, even the Tories. But New Labour did and arguably still does have a more friendly face to try and get back some socialised debt as it has integrity of standing should to shoulder with capitalism and side by side with business. And now it really is pay back but hopefully with that friendlier face about to try and get it back.

  • Pete Baker

    “But New Labour did and arguably still does have a more friendly face to try and get back some socialised debt as it has integrity of standing should to shoulder with capitalism and side by side with business. And now it really is pay back but hopefully with that friendlier face about to try and get it back.”

    That “friendlier face”, DC?

    The addition of Mandelson spin will not mask the Brown visage.

    Never mind the importation of short-sellers that this reshuffle also includes.

    Honestly, you seem to think that nobody has a memory?

    Brown has made this move to avoid an internal party putsch.

    It does nothing, by itself, on a national stage. And as I mentioned, may well work to his detriment on that national stage.

  • DC

    Yes and a potential 43yo prime minister and 39 yo chancellor with no coherent ideology from within the House of Tory will mean, like even Blair now admits, that this inexperience will be a drawback and it could make them prone to rash decisions when in office, without a particular line of thought.

    There is no consistency with the Tory party meaning it will be prone to doing seat-of-your-pants stuff, except with Blair he used his early years to work on N Ireland, across Europe and was blown off course after 9/11, before finding his feet.

    However, with recession and the cupboard bare the Tories will need some ideas and if the political ideas shift towards Europe for a safer port in a storm then the Tories could become electorally skint.

    I disagree about the Putsch, Labour will be fucked with or without Brown and internally he is saving stability by bringing people with experience and appeal where counts into the cabinet. Labour are fucked Pete, but so to is Britain relatively speaking. Whoever it is at the helm of Labour knows the predicament; but arguably the Tories are less well equipped than what New Labour is at the moment.

  • Pete Baker

    “Labour are fucked Pete, but so to is Britain relatively speaking.”

    Possibly, DC.

    “Labour will be fucked with or without Brown..”

    Again, possibly. Brown has tried up to now, in his best judgement, to survive by importing new talent. That hasn’t worked. Now he’s doing his best to shore up his own position, internally, by importing old talent.

    At some point the judgement will be that he is at fault.

  • DC

    Well let’s just hope Cameron hasn’t any character flaws Pete most of us do!

  • Pete Baker

    Yeah, DC!!

    Whatabout, Cameron?! Or even Clegg?! ;o)

  • Pete Baker

    To expand, DC,

    What makes you think I fucking care?

  • DC

    Well if it is to be Cameron, he did say he has the character, so it better not be flawed in lieu of any workable policy!

  • Brian Walker

    Pete and DC,
    On where they go from here, we have yet to get an inkling. Maybe they haven’t got one to offer us. The National Economic Council may be window dressing but at least it must generate an agenda. History suggests it’s very difficult for governments to change tack radically. ( well, democratic ones, I leave out Lenin and the New Economic Policy). But then the whole world will have to make its biggest change since the early 70s and the end of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rates system introduced in 1944. That change cannot mean a retreat into protectionism which would be even more disastrous in today’s globalising world. This has been a big theme of Mandy’s as trade commissioner. Brown has to change from qualified freemarketeer to some kind of dirigisme. Fewer banks, state equity in banks, cut interest rates, Will Hutton’s agenda of residential-backed mortgage securities to unlock lending? Or here’s an idea, Mandelsons’s dream of joining the euro over which he sparred so bitterly with Brown?
    The UK may become less Atlanticist than it was the day before yesterday dc, but then so has America. We have to swim together if not quite in synch, at least compatibly.

  • Gosh! there’s nothing disinterested or blinkered about the above postings, is there?

    By general agreement Mandelson did a good job in each of his Ministerial appointments. He was not displaced by any malfeasance of his office. Unless one is playing a very political card, he did little unfair or partial in NI dealings.

    So, what’s left?

    Allow me to say that, body-for-body, the UK ministerial team has been substantially strengthened by these appointments.

    Oh, and by the way, the Secretaries-of-State for the celtic colonies (Scotland, Wales and NI) have a legal basis. They cannot be over-turned, or merged without significant Parliamentary jiggery-pokery. It will happen; but I guess for the time being there are higher priorities.

  • Brian Walker

    PS I see the reshuffled government as I said, as a closing of the ranks of Blairite and Brownite, old hands and new. New members of a government long in power tend breed managerial characters lacking in profile, because they usually worked their way up silently through the political bureaucracy showing administrative or policy talent, rather than noisily, fighting for power in opposition and learning basic political skills. The skills needed for a government in trouble are more like those of a party fighting for power than a government on the crest of the wave. For the most part the young’uns haven’t had to fight the old political battles necessary to gain power and thereby, win profile. Key examples of what the bright kids lack are shown in David Miliband’s maladroit personal bid and before him Portillo’s. Both of them were backroom boys who were promoted and had yet to win their political spurs when they were suddenly called on to lead a charge and fell off their horse. Small wonder even a badly weakened Brown rolled over Mily. That’s why I think Brown has been right to go for a mix of old bruisers with scars and clean-cut youth. At least some of the public have a clue who Mandy is, unlike.. waz-‘is- name??

  • DC

    “What makes you think I fucking care?”

    I dunno you seemed fairly concerned in your previous posts..ah…”honestly, you seem to think that nobody has a memory?”

    Old age setting in Pete

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mandelson, is, to me, synonymous with the corruption that overturned New Labour. Nobody should be surprised that he is back – the last trump card that Brown has to play. That said, I can’t imagine how Brown sees that he can benefit.

  • Pete Baker


    “PS I see the reshuffled government as I said, as a closing of the ranks of Blairite and Brownite, old hands and new.”

    That’s how I see it too.

    And that is the problem for Brown.

    It’s more a reaction to internal party problems, not necessarily a reaction to external political [and economic] problems.

    Back to the future?

  • It is surprising that the office of Celtic secretary was not established but I understand that for this office to come it to place it has to be legislated for and this could explain the delay for now.
    The establishment of such an office would send a message to the celtic nations particularly NI that it is time to get on with running your own juristictions.
    It would have been the kick in the goolies that unionist politicians need to finally realise that they are in a new situation and to get on with it.

    Fit in or F**K OFF if you like

  • Greenflag

    brian walker ,

    ‘But then the whole world will have to make its biggest change since the early 70s and the end of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rates system introduced in 1944.’

    Indeed . However the exact shape or make up of a new world financial order is not yet ‘visible’. The outcome of the USA’s bail out of Wall St will have to run some of it’s course – there is no widespread optimism that it will do much other than moderate the coming recession . The new ‘administration’ will be beset on all sides with major challenges given the ‘inheritance’

    ‘That change cannot mean a retreat into protectionism which would be even more disastrous in today’s globalising world.’

    Globalising has certainly brought benefits -it has also brought increasing income disparities in incomes within countries particuarly in the Anglosphere countries. (USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland). This has seen it’s greatest manifestation in the USA, which is now lurching to the left in response to the 30 years ‘dominance ‘ of those who follow the ‘free market ‘ credo in an almost fundamentalist sense. The Clinton 8 year interlude was in retro a diversionary ‘blip’. It was Pres. Clinton in 1999 who signed into law the bill that gave free rein for financial institutions to become /do whatever they wanted with their ‘depositors’ money, or lenders investments, thus cementing the previous Bush /Reagan ‘thatcherite ‘ drift, and opening up the field for Bush II to wreak almost terminal havoc on the USA by ‘spending ‘ his way out of the recession ushered in by the market collapse of 2000. In the wake of 9/11 Bush II’s face was even seen on travel tourism tv ads, urging americans to spend , spend , spend in an orgy of patriotic ‘frenzy’ :(This at a time in a country already up to it’s eyeballs in credit card induced debt . The later sub prime insanity helped to keep the economy pumped and recession at bay for a few years until about 2006 . Mr Greenspan’s ‘reservations ‘ were briefly heard but unheeded as late as 2006 . Mr Paulson by his various assurances that all was quiet on the Wall St front kept the circus going until about a year ago when Bear Sterns went under . Since then it’s been a disaster a day . The Stock market has been up and down like a *****’s knickers in a knocking shop and Paulson , Bernanke and Bush have been running in and out like favoured customers .

    The ‘running ‘ stopped a couple of weeks ago and the ‘kneeling’ stage commenced . Prayers have been intoned to the taxpayers of the USA to forgive the sins of the bankers to the tune of 700 billion dollars :(.

    Ok said the politicians but we want our cut too and so another 150 billion was piled on to the victorious Paulsonian pyre in what must be the biggest ‘pork’ ever . In a scene in which a condemned taxpayer is given a choice between gallows or guillotine , the politicians did what only ‘responsible ‘ politicians do – took away the choice and offered the taxpayers of america both gallows and guillotine.

    Meanwhile in ‘real ‘ America a 90 year old lady shot herself in an attempt at suicide having been foreclosed on . At the age of 86 years this lady was given a 30 year mortgage for 46,000 dollars on a house valued at appro 100,000. The sheriff was sent to evict her at which point the incident occurred.

    In a fit of remorse -fannie mae or freddie mac has forgiven the ‘loan ‘ . The millions of americans in foreclosure or the millions more who will be forced into foreclosure over the next year or so now know what they have to do to escape their fate . Presumably if all the dead beats shoot themselves this would satisfy the ‘bankers’ and subprime mortgage merchants and would relieve a lot of pressure on the Federal Government ?

    Back to the main topic – The new ‘world financial order’ can’t just be an Amero /Euro / Japanese set up . It’s going to have to include China , Russia , India , Brazil and probably Iran/Saudi Arabia/Iraq as representative of those countries who are obliged to price their main ‘export i.e oil in USA dollars and who have an interest in the longer stability of the dollar .

    ‘The UK may become less Atlanticist than it was the day before yesterday dc, but then so has America. We have to swim together if not quite in synch, at least compatibly.’

    No question . Perhaps the USA should consider applying for membership of the EU ;)? I’m sure if Mandy proposed such a course to Gordon Brown he might find himself back in Siberia i.e NI .

  • Ann

    Brian interesting take on Mandy….but why would a primeminister with dodgy ratings bring back a minister who divides the party rather than unites it. Yes on the face of it this appears to united the two sections of new labour, but so many in the party dislike him, the public don’t trust him and if Mandy puts a foot wrong Broon will go down along with him…

    What are the odds he’ll keep his job this time?

    And wasn’t Gordon Brown chancellor of the exchequer? So why bring Mandy in due to his experience, is Brown saying that he made a bad job of it being chancellor, at least that is what the electorate could take from it.

    I think the best that can be said of mandy is that he really does understand what it is to get into bother with your mortgage, other than that I see no benefit……but we’ll see.

  • Ann

    ps, you made a good case re the blogging.

    (pssst I do love a good riot tho!…:) )

  • Brian Walker

    I’ve just been to a seminar by John Rentoul of the Sun Indy, biographer of Blair and implacable foe of Brown. Rentoul is about to teach a contemporary history course, “The Blair legacy in 2025” He makes the interesting point that most PMs wish to create “golden yesterdays,” an even cleaner, better version of the best of their own pasts. Blair was the exception, in that he “knew no history.” He was a great tactician but in the words of the eminent political scientist present David Marquand, “what was it all for?” Brown, who was the surly Scots chief engineer down in the bowels of the ship of State, then took over the bridge and tried to revisit the failures of public sector reform of the Blair era, all long term stuff, when the financial crisis overtook him. Whether he can seize the opportunity to reinvent remains to be seen. To be sure, scores of micro-initiatives won’t do the trick.

  • Blue Rinse Brigade

    A fine reshuffle from the Premier…if in trouble bring back Beckett as an…enforcer??!! Instead of putting the Blairites to sleep then, Gordon has decided to put on a united front for the country to see. Lets see how far that lasts past the upcoming disaster in Glenrothes…

    And as for Shaun Woodward…good to see he got nothing new out of the reshuffle. A man whose ego is inflated to an extent where he can openly brief the Belfast Telegraph that he is to become the next Defence Secretary deserved to be removed from Cabinet never mind promoted or kept in place. Prat.