The minister without portfolio made the revelation as he defended his record in a parliamentary debate on the project in south-east London. The names of the designers would be unveiled, he said, giving new clues to how the finished product would look. Whatever the content, the dome would be bound to entertain and inspire, he said.
A new entente between Mr Mandelson and the Tory initiator of the dome, former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, appeared to highlight a split in Conservative ranks. While the Tory culture spokesman, Francis Maude, accused the minister of secrecy and arrogance, Mr Heseltine made a rare Commons appearance to support his successor.
Mr Heseltine, who launched the project, defended Mr Mandelson. "The minister without portfolio has continued to conduct the process of government in a way that I set up. It was at my suggestion that he played the role that he is now playing," he said. "The die is cast. This festival is going to happen. In my view it has the capacity to attract dramatically large numbers of people."
Mr Mandelson responded in similar vein. The Tories had been courageous to take on such a "bold and complex" project, and should follow Mr Heseltine's lead in giving it their support, he said.
But Mr Maude said Mr Mandelson had presided over rows, resignations and dithering. "How is it that in a few short months, the Dome has become an object of ridicule, a laughing stock, a music hall joke? But the dream has turned sour, for you could not resist turning this great national project into a new Labour stunt," he said.Reuse content