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Mandelson memoirs spark Labour backlash

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 11 July 2010

As leading activists say Lord Mandelson's published diary could damage morale at a sensitive time for Labour, leadership candidate Andy Burnham tells Channel 4 News the party cannot be run by "egotistical factions".

Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown (Reuters)

Senior Labour figures tonight feared a new outbreak of fighting within the party as Westminster awaited the first disclosures from Lord Mandelson's memoirs.

The former business secretary has already provoked a fierce backlash from one supporter of Gordon Brown after describing the ex-prime minister's aides as "destructive".

In response, Charlie Whelan accused Lord Mandelson of being responsible for the "disaster" of Labour's campaign in the May general election.

Shadow ministers sought to keep a lid on the rowing, urging the party to concentrate its fire on the coalition Government. Lord Prescott, the newly-ennobled former deputy leader, said it was such infighting that lost Labour the last election.


Former health secretary Andy Burnham, who is currently campaigning for Labour leadership, told Channel 4 News the party needed to change.   

"I want a decisive break from this style of politics we just can't have the people's party run by egotistical factions on the London dinner party circuit plotting each others demise," he said. 

Burnham said he was angry at the way the party was run and said "At our worst in the last few years we had a London-centric top down approach to politics."

"I'm proud of what the government achieved. I'm proud of the Labour party and the Labour government. I was equally loyal to Tony Blair and to Gordon Brown but I had no part in the factionalism that was there in the Labour party and still today we have some people fighting those old battles."

The serialisation of Lord Mandelson's book, The Third Man, beginning tomorrow in The Times, promises to lay bare the "dysfunctional" relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Giving an advance flavour of the book, he said Blair comes across in it as someone who "had to devote too much of his energy dealing with this insurgency from next door".

Brown goes through three phases, Lord Mandelson said, the one between 1994 and 2007 - while Blair was leader and then prime minister - being "awful". Lord Mandelson said that Brown felt the three men had "killed each other" at the height of the New Labour infighting.

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said memoirs "have their place" but insisted the party was concentrating on the task in hand.

Former Labour cabinet minister Hazel Blears cautioned against anybody allowing their memoirs to damage the party as it comes back from its election defeat.

"What I don't want to happen is, with the publication of anybody's memoirs, that we take some of the morale out of the Labour Party," she said.

"We've done quite well after the election - we lost, we've come back, we've not been full of recriminations and I think we just need to stay on track."

Lord Mandelson's memoir, titled The Third Man, is being published more than a month ahead of Blair's long-awaited autobiography.

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