Meet The Next PM – Rothschild Zionist Mandelson
The Constitutional Reform Bill will make it possible – and plausible, say his supporters – for Lord Mandelson to launch himself into Number 10. Will he be tempted, asks Andrew Pierce, and could he succeed?
(TELEGRAPH) It was meant to be a novel measure to allow peers to answer questions in the House of Commons. Instead, it could be the lever that Gordon Brown’s enemies need to crowbar him out of Downing Street and install in his place Labour’s most formidable operator. At first glance, the latest piece of constitutional tinkering by Mr Brown merely sets the stage for Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and Ken Clarke, his Opposition shadow, to do battle across the Dispatch Box.
But if the change is signed off by John Bercow, the Speaker, it will also raise the possibility of one of the most extraordinary episodes in Britain’s political history: Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham adding two more monikers to his grandiose title. Namely, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.
As improbable as it may seem, there have been persistent murmurings at Westminster that Lord Mandelson, for so long the kingmaker, ought to seize the increasingly battered crown for himself. The talk is not confined to Parliament’s tea rooms: it has even percolated into the Downing Street bunker, where Mr Brown, his fingernails chewed ever closer to the quick, is wondering aloud about whether he will have to make a last desperate stand against the man he brought back from exile to save his administration.
If the Cabinet, which has failed to unite behind any replacement candidate since the Brown premiership hit the rocks, backed Lord Mandelson as acting Prime Minister, he would be the first from the upper chamber since Lord Salisbury, who took over in 1881.
Speculation that such an unlikely scenario is possible has intensified since Mr Brown said, in a letter to the Speaker this week, that he saw “no reason” why ministers in the Lords should not answer to MPs in the Commons chamber. If, as expected, the new Speaker repays the support of the Labour MPs who elected him by agreeing to the request, it will not just be one of the biggest overhauls of parliamentary procedure in centuries; it will also remove the greatest impediment to a Mandelson premiership.
Lord Mandelson, by having the right to speak in the Commons, would be accountable to MPs as often as Mr Brown is (and arguably more frequently than Tony Blair, who loathed the place). It’s true that the Business Secretary will not have a mandate from the voters – but nor has Mr Brown, whose party members were not even offered a choice of candidates.
“Peter is easily the most impressive [performer] we have got,” says one senior Labour Party figure, who is close to Mr Blair. “It’s true many of us have been talking about finding a way that he could do it. He gets things done. He has credibility. He’s the only one who scares the Tories.” For months, such hopes were mere wishful thinking: “It was never possible to have a caretaker prime minister from the Lords if he could not be held accountable by the elected chamber. That barrier is now being removed.”
Yet even if the measure does not go through, a wily operator like Lord Mandelson always has a back-up plan. When asked in June whether he would stand again as an MP, he said that it was against the law. “Of course,” he added, “you could always change the law.” The following month, the Government announced that it was doing just that. The Constitutional Reform Bill will, for the first time, allow life peers to resign from the Lords. When it becomes law, Lord Mandelson will be entitled to follow the example of hereditary peers such as the 14th Earl of Home, who in 1963 renounced his peerage, won a by-election, and became prime minister.
Critics on the Tory benches were initially baffled as to why the legislation was being put forward at all, given the seriousness of the country’s economic problems and the proximity of a general election. A growing number now suspect they know the answer. As caretaker leader, Lord Mandelson could, according to the plotters, soldier on to the election or pick his moment to fight a safe seat. Hilary Armstrong, the former Labour chief whip with a solid 13,443 majority in Durham North West, is standing down at the election, and the guarantee of a peerage might persuade her to go earlier. Other seats in Labour’s heartlands could also be fixed in return for a suitable bauble for the retiring Labour MP.
The main obstacle to Lord Mandelson realising his dream of going one better than his grandfather Herbert Morrison, who became Foreign Secretary, has always been his fractious relationship with the grassroots. As Tony Blair once said, tongue firmly in cheek: “My project will be complete when the Labour Party learns to love Peter Mandelson.” Yet in the past few months, it appears to have done just that. At the Labour conference, his appearance brought cheers, wolf whistles and catcalls – even before he began to speak. It was as if a rock star had appeared on stage for the first time since Mr Blair left it.
“Conference, let me say, after these years away – it’s good to be back home,” said Lord Mandelson, rocking back on his heels as they roared their approval. “I did not choose this party,” he said. “I was born into it. It is in my blood and it is in my bones. I love this party and those who work so hard for it – even if, at times, perhaps not everyone in it has loved me.” A leadership speech? He was certainly given a rapturous ovation.
The rapprochement with the activists has been fuelled by his abandoning the hated plans to part-privatise the Royal Mail, and persuading David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, not to resign after James Purnell’s dramatic exit from the Cabinet after the European elections. “James knew that David wanted to be leader, he thought he should be leader, so laid his life down for him,” says another senior Blairite. “Yet Miliband stayed put. No one will make that sacrifice for David again. He is powerless to move against Gordon.”
When Lord Mandelson was rewarded for his loyalty with the title First Secretary of State, it was the culmination of a remarkable rehabilitation. In 2001, he was a pariah after leaving the Cabinet for a second time: his appointment as EU Trade Commissioner was meant to be the end of his domestic political career.
But he revelled in his new role, shedding his reputation as high priest of spin and becoming a major figure on the world stage. Since his return, the Business Secretary has become arguably the most powerful Cabinet minister since Michael Heseltine was made deputy prime minister by a weakened John Major after John Redwood’s failed leadership challenge in 1995. Indeed, even though Heseltine was hated by many Tory MPs for his role in the assassination of Margaret Thatcher, he might have been their choice to replace Major if he had lost in 1995. Heseltine looked like a winner. The Blairites think Lord Mandelson does, too.
Could the rest of Labour’s MPs come to terms with it? A word from Tony Blair might help, along with the blessing of the Foreign Secretary, and the immediate return of James Purnell. Also, thanks to the expenses scandal, many Labour MPs fear they will not just lose their seats, but find it difficult to get any work at all in the private sector. It’s why they are desperate to get rid of Mr Brown and want Cabinet heavy hitters to tell him it’s all over. One trigger could be a bad result in next month’s by-election in Glasgow North East, caused by the elevation of the former Speaker Michael Martin to the Lords.
There is another question: even if all the cards fall into place, would Mandelson want the job? “It seems far-fetched,” says one close friend, “but I am sure he would much rather prefer to be thought of than not. And he has a very commanding air at the moment.”
As for the man himself, when asked about becoming prime minister in a recent interview, he paused, smiled, and said: “That one might be a comeback too many.” But then again, it might not.