Peter Mandelson: You ask the questions

The European commissioner for external trade on the CAP, 'Mandy' and Gordon: 'I have no feud with Gordon Brown. I respect what he does as Chancellor'


A report yesterday said you were playing a leading role in efforts to persuade Tony Blair to delay his departure until 2008. Is that true? JULIA STEPHENS, NORTHAMPTON

Mr Blair is perfectly capable of making up his own mind when he feels his mandate has been completed.

Do you think your well-publicised feud with Gordon Brown will ever end? When did you last speak to the Chancellor? And do you exchange Christmas cards? JUNE JACOBSON, HAMPSTEAD

I have no feud with Gordon Brown. I respect what he has done as Chancellor.

During last week's infighting between the Blair and Brown camps, did you feel relieved not be caught in the middle of the fire storm? M DAVISON, DULWICH

Yes. I just wish everyone in government would concentrate on governing.

Would you like to serve a second term in Brussels when your five-year spell ends? And what would be your dream job in politics: Foreign Secretary, perhaps? AN QUERESHI, MARYLEBONE

A second term is a long way in the future and career planning has never been my strong point.

Why did you not come out and make a stand for gay rights? D BROWNE, BRIGHTON

Because it is equally important to make a stand for privacy in public life.

Is it still difficult for a successful politician in Britain to be openly gay? RICHARD HALLIBURTON, BRISTOL

No.

Do you like being called Mandy? TOM OZBEK, SOHO

I have been called worse.

How can you support the campaign to make poverty history while saying you will defend the Common Agricultural Policy? JAMIE BAXTER, ISLINGTON

We are already reforming the CAP and if you take these changes and what I am trying to negotiate in the Doha talks, nobody could accuse me of being anti-reform.

You slammed down the phone on the US trade representative a year ago. You bungled bra wars. Now world trade talks are in dire straits. Haven't you been a failure in your European trade job? ALAN MULGAN, BIRMINGHAM

It is too early to judge my achievements because I am a year and a half into a five-year job. But for the record: nobody slammed down the phone; the textile issue was resolved amicably with the Chinese amid deep divisions among the European member states; I believe a Doha deal is possible before the summer and if not then, later. Europe has been one of the driving forces behind these talks. Reconciling the interests of 25 member states is never easy, but I feel I have created unity among them on many sensitive issues.

Why is the EU asking developing countries to open their markets in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Doha round while refusing to cut its agricultural subsidies? MARYANN RENA, SW2

The EU is offering to cut its trade-distorting agricultural subsides by 70 per cent in the Doha round and eliminate export subsidies altogether, which is nothing less than a small revolution in CAP terms. A Doha agreement would make these cuts irreversible. Our requests for market access from developing countries in the Doha round apply only to advanced emerging markets - China, Brazil and India for example. They are limited in scope and balanced with a clear acceptance of the need of these countries to exclude some sensitive areas from cuts. From the rest of the developing world we have asked for almost nothing and from the 50 poorest least developed countries nothing at all. All developing countries are not the same: China is not Chad. Brazil is not Benin.

What would be the consequences if the Doha trade round collapses? Will there be a deal? V BUTLER-LLOYD, ASHFORD

Doha is too important to collapse. Although it's easy to talk down the value of what is on the table, a multilateral agreement has a huge value in its own right over bilateral alternatives. And Doha is about more than just market access - it will rewrite the WTO rulebook in important ways and bring together a big new global package of aid for trade for the poorest countries. I think there will be a deal.

Do you agree that Tony Blair has "sold" Britain to the European Union, but has not "sold" the EU to the British people? MARJORIE MCCARTHY, DUNDEE

Tony Blair and the British presidency [of the EU] did an excellent job of shaping the economic and social reform agenda - the Hampton Court summit is emerging as a milestone in the EU's development. The Prime Minister has never wavered in his public commitment to the EU. But he can't sell the EU to the British public alone.

You've said the European constitution should be revived even though it as rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands. Doesn't Brussels need a dose of reality on this? ELLEN HINDES, BANBURY

What I said was that if the European Union is to function effectively in the future we will have to return to the questions of institutional reform that the treaty tried to address. The current EU institutions are designed for a union of 12 states. We now have 25, soon 27. The treaty in its current form is unacceptable to many Europeans. But that doesn't mean we can ignore the questions it tried to answer.

Under what circumstances might it be legitimate for a politician to lie? AHMED, BOUNDS GREEN, LONDON

There are no circumstances in which it is legitimate for a politician to lie.

Do you think the age of spin is over? If not, any advice for budding spin doctors? RHIANNON BAILEY, CAMDEN

Anybody who thinks spin is a phenomenon of modern politics needs to read Thuycidides.

Where is David Cameron going wrong? And right? M ROXBURGH, WEST KENSINGTON

He's in the wrong party.

'Parlez-vous francais?' BRIAN BURGESS, W11

Elements de base, comme on dit.

Could you please tell me something about Tony Blair that I don't know and that might make me warm to him again? STEPHEN MACDOUGALL, LONDON

When he has a difference with you he will say so to your face, not behind your back. And not fall out with you in the process.

How can you persuade people that globalisation is good rather than bad for them? ANDY HASSAN, HACKNEY

By arguing for the benefits of globalisation rather than indulging the fears. The same is true of EU enlargement, incidentally, which is globalisation in our backyard.

Do you regret anything about your political career? N PRICE, CHISWICK

I regret my political career being interrupted, sometimes through my own fault, sometimes not.

How should New Labour now renew itself? TOBY COLEMAN, ESSEX

By updating its policies and not reaching back for an alternative to them.

When you were Northern Ireland Secretary, did your dog once pee on the carpet at Hillsborough Castle? AMANDA DIXON, BELFAST

Yes, and Bobby kept going back to the same part of the carpet.

How proud are you of your role in persuading the Prime Minister to back the Millennium Dome? TIM BARRY, GUILDFORD

I inherited the Dome. I did not inflict it. But remember, 80 per cent of the public who visited the Dome thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Have you ever considered regrowing your tache? JULIAN HAMILTON, TRURO

No. It would give away my age.

I am considering taking out a mortgage. Do you have any advice? LEE HAZELL, LIVERPOOL

Renting is sometimes better, although interest rates are at an historic low.

Do you think the story about you confusing mushy peas with guacamole is as funny as everyone else does? DANNY BAKER, LONDON FIELDS

It is rather tired as a joke.

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