Mandelson's fall: What price a disgraced Prince of Darkness?

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The Independent Online
PETER MANDELSON has not ruled out a swift return to the centre of the political stage, although reports that he might stand for election as mayor of London were scotched by his supporters yesterday.

Other reports yesterday suggested that the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry might lead an all-party campaign to take Britain into the single currency. The group is currently headed by the media tycoon and Labour peer Lord Hollick, a friend and former adviser to Mr Mandelson at the DTI. Mr Mandelson, a keen pro-European, has told friends he would like to play a European role in future.

Although the length of time Mr Mandelson has to spend in the political wilderness is likely to depend on developments over Mr Robinson's loan, he need not worry about meeting the mortgage payments on his Notting Hill house, according to corporate headhunters.

A CV which includes remoulding the Labour Party, organising the Millennium Dome and holding one of the great offices of state means that global companies at the cutting edge of technology are likely to be queuing up to offer the former trade secretary directorships worth at least pounds 250,000 per year, with share options and a cornucopia of other perks.

"In the small time that he ran the Millennium Dome he turned it around from a scheme that was sliding away. That showed he has got fantastic organisational skills," said Martin Hughes, associate director of Sammons Associates, a London-based executive-recruitment agency. "He was spot- on about using technology at the Department of Trade and Industry. He'd already proved enough by transforming the Labour Party. He is set up for someone to approach him on behalf of a global company with strong interests in technology. There's no doubt that such an approach would be at directorship level."

But Mr Mandelson should steer clear of jobs that involved using the contacts he gained in government, said Mr Hughes. "He would be setting himself up for people to have a go at him. When British Airways was floated we saw [former Tory ministers] Lord Young and Norman Tebbit move on to the board. It's the very thing that Labour promised to cut out if they came to power." But avoiding similar charges would be difficult for Mr Mandelson. "He'd always be accused of using his relationship with Blair."

Another top corporate headhunter, Alan Cutts, said future employers would not be put off by Mr Mandelson's fall from grace. "It was a bit stupid but a lot of people would say `there but for the grace of God...' Meanwhile, he's a proven talent with a reputation for rolling-up his sleeves and hard work. At the end of the day, it's not what you have done, but what you can do that counts to the clients."