Mandelson is still close adviser to party chiefs

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The Independent Online
PETER MANDELSON is continuing to act as a close adviser to Tony Blair, despite his resignation from the Cabinet, according to the new biography of the former secretary of state for trade and industry.

The book suggests that since he stood down last December,Mr Mandelson has played an active role behind the scenes in influencing government policies, even though he has sought to keep a low public profile.

"The Prime Minister continued regularly to consult him in early morning telephone calls after he had resigned," says Donald Macintyre's biography, Mandelson. "He was closely involved, for example, in Blair's Commons statement on the EMU [European Monetary Union] changeover plans in February, urging, as usual, that it should send as clear a message as possible that the Government intended joining the single currency."

The disclosures will alarm Labour MPs who oppose an early return to the Cabinet by Mr Mandelson. Some of his supporters hope Mr Blair will recall him next year, but his critics argue that a comeback should be delayed until after the next general election. "He needs to serve his sentence," one minister said yesterday.

It emerged at Westminster last night that a plan by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, to use Mr Mandelson as his unofficial envoy to the European Union has been shelved afterobjections by Joyce Quin, a Foreign Office minister.

However, Mr Mandelson has continued to act as Labour's representative to a working party set up by Mr Blair and Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, to work out a common, "third way" philosophy. Mr Mandelson came under fire from some Labour MPs for attending a meeting of the Anglo- German group at the Cabinet Office shortly after his resignation. The former minister has since attended an unpublicised second meeting of the group in Cologne. The Macintyre book reveals that Mr Mandelson has also attended regular meetings of Labour's policy makers

"Early in March he slipped into the old Labour stronghold of Sheffield's neo-Gothic town hall to advise the local Labour group on their forthcoming electoral struggle with the resurgent Liberal Democrats," says the book.

The book also discloses that Gordon Brown has told Mr Mandelson he is "absolutely confident" he could and would return to government. The two men attempted a reconciliation in January, after their feud was blamed for the disclosure of the pounds 373,000 personal loan from Geoffrey Robinson that cost Mr Mandelson his cabinet job.

At the meeting, Mr Brown said that some of the people "around us" had known them only since the breach in their relationship after the death of John Smith in 1994. They did not understand the empathy and fondness that existed in the previous six years when they had worked closely together. Macintyre believes it is "too early to say" whether the relationship can be repaired.

The book concludes that Mr Mandelson can make a successful return to frontline politics. "The future is up to him; but at 45 he has one great fortune. He has a second chance."

A life less ordinary

Review, Front

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