16 Jul 2010

Mandy's Secret Weapon

At the Mandy book launch last night there were some wonderfully tedious ‘no-shows’ and some equally intriguing ‘shows’, the Prince of Darkness was in ebullient form.

So was the boss of HarperCollins, Victoria Bardsley. For her this is a publishing sensation, for him this is a week of living dangerously – an exploit that he seems to fear and relish in equal measure – no Kinnock present, no Campbell, no Prescott and naturally, no Blair or Brown.

Brown’s closest advisor Sue Nye was on hand, so were Blair’s Angie Hunter and Sally Morgan. It was an event at the Festival Hall laced with venom, intrigue and humour in equal measure. My good friend Andrew Rawnsley had speed read the thing in a day and averred that it was less candid than The Times serialisation had pretended.

Conversation was largely supportive of the coalition and of Ed Miliband in the Labour leadership stakes.

But surprisingly, the most interesting conversation centred on the current menu of cuts.

No one I spoke to thought 25 per cent either achievable or sensible. But all agreed that to set a ‘culture’ of draconian cuts would create a dynamic in which perhaps 12 per cent to 15 per cent might be achieved – probably the amount that the economy needed or could bear.

Trident came up. I learned that General Sir Richard Dannatt – erstwhile Tory defence advisor, who had been due to go into the Lords, is opening a potential fissure on the deterrent.

He apparently only thinks the thing should go ahead on a ‘very narrow points decision’ and that in 5 to 10 years time the decision might very well be reversed – a point made in today’s FT. It is intriguing that there is as yet so little main stream parliamentary support for abandoning the Cold War relic.

The new and most immediate defence question centres on the contract to build two aircraft carriers – the work has already started on Clydeside. My sources tell me that General Sir David Richards, the new chief of the armed forces, is not excited by the project.

Still, I’d have been a boring old toad if I had left last night’s proceedings thinking about military hardware. I didn’t.

I left thinking that the Prince’s Chapter 2 about his childhood lived in the presence of great men was the most important in his tome.

Inside Peter Mandelson is a great man desperate to get out. The political man will not be playing on the scale of the Third Man again, but as to some other role – in a strange way – love him or hate him (and as I said yesterday, most people who know him have achieved both) I think we haven’t heard the last of him.

Does an arms manufacturer beckon? Now who’s building those missiles?

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

25 reader comments

  1. Paul Begley says:

    There does seem to be a concensus emerging about that book – that is says little we didn’t already know, but that we’re being subjected to a huge volume of spin and advertising to persuade us to buy it. Which in its way, makes the book a potent symbol of our time – a perfectly gift-wrapped present, tied up in ribbon, but which turns out to contain an empty box when it is unwrapped.

    1. Tom Wright says:

      Indeed. “Empty vessels make the most noise”. Or even, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

  2. Saltaire Sam says:

    Haven’t read Chapter 2 but I’m sure you are right. So many people’s lives are driven by a desire to please a figure from their early life or to rebel against their childhood.

    The only thing we can be sure about Mandy’s future is that it will involve shedloads of money, power and manipulation.

    I wish you hadn’t planted the thought of him in the arms industry because one can easily imagine him creating mischief so that countries would increase the size of their orders. Too scary.

    1. Kate says:

      ” because one can easily imagine him creating mischief so that countries would increase the size of their orders”

      Ha! Yes! I can’t see conscience playing too great a part in whatever he does in the future. It hasn’t in the past.

    2. Tom Wright says:

      Saltaire, my money is on him turning up as head of PR for BP.

  3. margaret brandreth- Jones says:

    Your parting is on the other side now we can see the whole photograph .

    Now to Bury to view our newly opened £350 million shopping precinct. I said 17 years ago I wanted to put Bury truly on the map, but the design isn’t immediatley to my liking, but will keep an open mind and a closed purse.

    The waves of generations ebb and flow and the fads come and go. I for one don’t advocate age categories to become between success and failure and feel as long as I am alive then this is MY time, despite others asking these type of questions ; What was it like in your day ?

    Depending on how shirty I am feeling I will either rhetort This IS MY day or say oh! I am still alive.

    Carry on Mandy.. we are still playing 10CC’s music.

  4. afrian clarke says:

    I only read the first extract in the Times , and came to the conclusion that Mandy(that name suits him)was the great egotist amongst his warped and incorrect peers.The more i see,hear and read of him,the more he comes over as a meglomaniac on a par with,Hitler.He is a very dangerous man,who craves publicity and money.Were he in a different country he would be a tyrant creaming off the countries money for his personal use,with no regard for those supposedly beneath him.I will wait until the book is 50p at a car boot sale or in a charity shop

    1. the-Richard-of-Nottingham says:

      “Mandy (that name suits him)”

      Adrian, I know what you mean. It’s like watching some hideous drag-queen (This is not a demeaning on his sexuality by the way) spewing out bile, poison and tittle-tattle for his grand finale. And to the highest bidder.

      It’s worth reading Jeff Randall’s piece in todays Telegraph online.

      “…it’s like coming up for air”.

  5. Jim Flavin says:

    Is the publication of this guys book really the most important event to be happening in UK or worldwide today – waste of space .

    1. margaret brandreth- Jones says:

      Important to whom jim? isn’t it all relative ?. We know that thousands are being tortured , are starving and have a quality of life which is unbearable, but is that all there is to life? Is it all misery and gloom? for some it is , but not for us, we are the lucky ones and can only try and build up our own wealth to help others. A powerless Country is not in a position to help others.

    2. adz says:

      Completely agree! There are far more important event happening as I write & you read.
      Haiti for example?Nah, the U.S. has drained it!
      adzmundo TVP,ZM & CND

  6. adrian clarke says:

    my thumbs aren’t working :'(

  7. Karen David says:

    When are we going to get a political autobiography that really is the weapon its publisher claims it to be? I suspect the libel laws in the UK will prevent this happening for sone time yet.

    And anyway, plays a long game, so I suspect that this book is targeted in an entirely different political direction.

  8. John Smith says:

    Mandelson’s book, the whole New Labour project, put them in a box, secure tightly and either use as a doorstop or better still chuck in the nearest river and hope it doesn’t pollute.

  9. margaret brandreth- jones says:

    All change at Euston, THUMBS UP/ THUMBS DOWN.

    Here we go again .. no consistency. Must be that Chief executive we keep hearing, fall out, year after year who tells everyone that they didn’t know what day it was till he took over.

    Now that is megolamania : someone who reckons he has control of everyones mind , as he hears words which resemble his own words used. A paranoid disillusioned porous-brained parasite has been out there for too long.
    This is a shared language which we all use , not a private one; we use it for communication with others , so by that rule it would seem senseless to claim property on words.

    This might seem off topic , but as proving plagiarism these days is becoming so difficult and unfair , we might all give a thought to those whose job it is to use words to get their pennies.

  10. adz says:

    I’m begining to enjoy this new website layout. It always takes time to get used to the new.
    The prince of darkness hey? Why is he called that?
    You’ll have to excuse my ignorance but would love to know.
    Trident will be updated whether we like it or not.
    What the government doesn’t seem to realise and doesn’t want to hear, is that by giving our nuclear defence system a new lease of life will only encourage more dangerous nations to want the same. Some underdeveloped countries will continue to pursue the same nuclear objective. Living in these countries, are some people who can’t be trusted with such an arsenal but will do their upmost to equal “the west”. It means a lot to equal developed nations.
    adzmundo The Venus Project,ZM & CND

  11. akamrburns says:

    One of his great qualities is that he gets things done. He has the ability to focus on things that really matter and get results. He was probably one of our very best EU commissioners and nearly pulled off the impossible by getting an agreement on world trade. He won’t be out of the headlines for long – and hopefully for the right reasons.

    Slightly off topic…a comment about your piece on bank lending last night.
    As your piece highlighted, Bank lending to business is going down (certainly in the case of RBS). The excuse given last night was that businesses are not wanting to invest and were reluctant to borrow. Now I wonder why? Market uncertainty? Yes, but this is only part of the reason. Think back to what banks did at the start of the downturn. (always bear in mind please, that they were the cause and the catalyst of this event)Across the country banks tightened their terms. They reduced facility levels, restructured loans at higher rates and increased their charges. These actions put thousands of businesses into survival mode and put many more thousands out of business. Instead of supporting their business customers through tough times, they turned the screw. What’s changed since then? Nothing. Facility levels are as tight as they ever were, and bank charges remain high. Is it any wonder that businesses are not borrowing? Before businesses borrow they need to be able to trade without the fear of the rug being pulled.
    Let’s be absolutely clear about what is going on. Banks have engineered this so that the focus is on businesses not borrowing rather than banks not lending. Whatever they say, they do not want to lend.
    What we should be demanding from banks is that they release their stranglehold on businesses. They need to reduce their charges, reduce their borrowing rates and give restore facility levels and allow businesses breathe again.
    The amount that businesses borrow does not necessarily translate into business health. What businesses need to be creative, to trade profitably and to have the confidence to contemplate borrowing, is a supportive relationship with their banks. The banks destroyed this relationship and have not been in a hurry to restore it.
    Most people have absolutely no idea of the nightmare most businesses have suffered as a result of the behaviour of the banks. Banks behaviour is judged in ‘global’ terms, such as how much they are lending. Few people know about their behaviour at ‘local level’ which has been, to say the least, reprehensible.
    Businesses will not borrow, the country will not start to grow again until we address the way banks behave ‘on the ground’.
    Britain needs to completely rethink how banks work with business. I believe we need ‘business banks’, owned in part by the state, that actively help our businesses to survive and prosper. If we continue the way we are going we will not achieve the growth we need to reduce the debt and increase prosperity. Why? because the self-interest of the banks.
    Time for change. Time for a C4 investigation?

  12. anniexf says:

    I’m with Adrian, i wouldn’t soil my hands with that man’s memoirs. Oily, slick, evasive, he’s the antithesis of candour. Why would anyone want to trust him with anything more dangerous than a sparkler? The very idea of him being involved with the arms industry makes Idi Amin seem benevolent.
    Obviously I don’t know him, and no doubt he’s worshipped in some quarters, but I remember his excruciating speech in “French” when he became a European Commissioner – it was so appallingly, buttock-clenchingly embarrassing that I wondered why on earth he was inflicting it on his captive audience. I quickly dismissed the idea that he was trying to be courteous; that wasn’t good manners, it was insulting. Why couldn’t he have given it in English & leave translation to the interpreters …? then I realised the full extent of his arrogance & ego.
    Cuts? Already under way here – one vital bus route (thanks, National Express, I’m sure your shareholders will rejoice)and the babies’ & toddlers’ pool at our local swimming baths closed & hired out to a local martial arts club. The main pool is scheduled for a reduction in opening hours, resulting in job losses. There will probably be cuts at the library & we’ve already lost our CAB….

  13. Andrew Farley says:

    Peter has his thumbs in all sorts of pies. I can’t help but like him though.

  14. Michael Rank says:

    Mandelson’s TV commercials for his book were ludicrously creepy, corny and camp, the best possible reason for not buying it. Look them up on You-Tube if you haven’t seen them

  15. Paul Begley says:

    This is off-topic, but your fix for the iPhone was priceless! Let’s hope it catches on.

  16. robert says:

    What was Peter Mandelson’s greatest achievement in Government?
    What has he done for our country?
    Jon Snow needs to realise that New Labour and Mandelson were a disaster for Britain. Our society has changed dramatically over the past 13 years into a multicultural bankrupt one.

  17. phil dicks says:

    Mandelssen: the most talked-about politician-who-never-even-achieved-a-big-department-let-alone-Prime-Minister’s-job. If you stand back, that’s a big achievement.
    But what this bloke hasn’t fully realised (behind the completely-defensive pantomime stuff), is he was never taken, err, seriously.
    Deep down, he’s a good, thoughtful, man; but he’s become a comic turn – amusing-if-you-can-bother-to-get-the-joke (most of us can’t). He has to live with this; there were too many wraparound levels of irony – too much self-defending cleverness to be considered serious.
    Go home, Peter, think. Do something good. Not knowingly clever. Just good.

  18. Steve Willis says:

    I must admit I like Mandelson. However, back in the run up to the 1992 General Election I tried to persuade someone in Conservative Central Office to challenge him on the subject of his sexuality. They declined, but I can’t help wondering how the burghers of Hartlepool would have responded if he’s been outed a decade earlier than 2001.

    Without a Mandelson, would there have been a Blair leadership?

    Would we have been deprived of this book and the supporting spin?

  19. Brian Swinbanks says:

    The aspiration of true socialism should have been the equitable distribution of wealth throughout the entire nation. The result of Mandelson’s, Blair and Brown’s new labour was the crass retention of wealth, power and now the written word within a rotating clique.

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