Sunday, October 05, 2008

Political Double Acts 2

The return of Peter Mandelson to the British Government is a master-stroke.

I was always impressed by the political power generated by the appearance of conflict between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Like children anxiously listening to their parents quarrelling, we were led to believe that our world would fall apart if Tony and Gordon ever actually got divorced. And when we saw them sharing ice-creams at the seaside, we were so relieved that they were still talking to one another that we gratefully voted for them.

Since Tony left, Gordon has had no-one to quarrel-and-make-up with. His PR people aren't stupid enough to have him buy ice-creams for the Miliband boys, because that'd just make him look like a sad uncle. And in any case there's nobody else in the cabinet that we could ever imagine having a serious quarrel with Gordon. (Thatcher had Heseltine. Major had the entire cabinet.)

But the return of Mandelson brings a new electricity to the Government. Political journalists and relieved Labour back-benchers are already starting to invent a whole series of potential stand-up rows between Mr Gordon and Lord Peter, and I estimate these stories will start to appear in the Sunday newspapers by about the middle of November, unconvincingly denied by Labour ministers in Monday morning radio interviews.

This is almost as brilliant (and risky) a gamble as Senator McCain's appointment of Governor Palin as his running mate. So whose master-stroke is it? Martha Kearney of the BBC has attributed it to spinmeister Alastair Campbell. But there are two other spinmeisters in the frame - Mrs Gordon Brown (née Sarah Macauley of Hobsbawm Macaulay) and the Prince of Darkness himself (né Peter Benjamin Mandelson).

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