Letter reveals Mandelson as double agent

Click to follow
The Independent Online
PETER MANDELSON, the Minister without Portfolio, did offer to campaign for Gordon Brown in the 1994 Labour leadership contest, the Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Despite heated denials from friends of Mr Mandelson yesterday, there is documentary evidence to prove that he offered to be "partisan" in the press on Brown's behalf in the aftermath of John Smith's death.

The existence of a letter from Mr Mandelson supporting Mr Brown will reopen old wounds in the Cabinet. Opponents of Mr Mandelson will assert that the timing and wording of the letter demonstrate his Machiavellian manoeuvrings to the full.

Mr Mandelson, Labour's chief fixer, wrote to the Shadow Chancellor, as he then was, in mid May 1994, before nominations had been taken for the leadership. He appraised Mr Brown's position, and concluded there was no one to rival his political capacity.

But, in the letter, he drew an unfavourable contrast between Mr Brown's standing in the country and Tony Blair's strong appeal to voters in southern England, who Labour would have to win over if the party was to gain power. He wrote that to overcome Mr Blair's emergence as front- runner, a massive media briefing could be mounted.

But the spin doctor went on to play on Mr Brown's sense of Labour unity, advising him that such a campaign would undermine Mr Blair and split the party. Nonetheless, Mr Mandelson stated he was prepared to become "partisan" in the press on Mr Brown's behalf. Or Mr Brown could decide not to run against his old friend Mr Blair. The choice was Mr Brown's.

The letter is disclosed in my biography of the Chancellor due to be published this week.

Mr Mandelson's supporters were yesterday suggesting that the book - written with the Chancellor's co-operation - is the opening shot in a campaign by Mr Brown to oust Mr Blair.

This is not the case. But Mr Brown still believes he could have won a leadership contest against Mr Blair. He said: "The newspapers, with a few notable exceptions, did not back me - not least because I was out of fashion. I was never part of the London scene anyway. But that did not in my view mean much, once the campaign started among ordinary Labour Party members and indeed backbench MPs."

n The Millennium exhibition at Greenwich in south London could be created for pounds 100m, not pounds 750m as proposed, it is claimed. In a savage attack on Mr Mandelson, who heads the Millennium Dome project, Stephen Bayley, who has resigned as its creative director, told the Sunday Telegraph it might turn out to be "crap".

Mr Bayley accused the project's managers of behaving like a Soviet dictatorship. Mr Mandelson, he said, was too easily swayed by public opinion.

The minister's supporters dismissed Mr Bayley's criticism, saying his ideas were time-consuming and inappropriate.

Betrayed but not bitter, page 3