The acknowledged master of reading the media runes saw that his fate had been sealed when the very newspapers he had cultivated so assiduously were giving him no mercy.
The Daily Mail led the attack, with a front page that screamed "Master of Deception". Its leader likened the minister to Icarus, a man brought down by his soaring pride. It condemned government "cronyism" and raised the spectre of Robert Maxwell and his links not just with Geoffrey Robinson, but with other Labour heavyweights.
Even the Labour-supporting Mirror weighed in, describing Mandelson's folie de grandeur. "The Government underestimated how it would impact on the public," said editor Piers Morgan yesterday. "They were hoping because he did nothing illegal he would get away with it. The press realised how such a large sum would disgust the public." Under the headline "A crisis of arrogance and greed", The Mirror also attacked cronyism.
The Express led with the headline "How he hid the truth", and accused Mr Mandelson of offering only "token regrets". In The Times he was compared to Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair: both have a "flaw" of wanting to "lead the high life on virtually no money".
The Guardian stopped short of calling for Mr Mandelson's resignation, but lamented his poor judgement and reported on the private "glee" of many Labour MPs at his discomfort.
Certain elements recurred in yesterday's coverage. Almost all papers traced Mandelson's rise from a humble cottage to his recent status as king of Nineties cool. The other device no one could resist was comparing his Notting Hill home with those of his constituents. The Mail claimed he could have bought nine houses in Hartlepool with the borrowed money, The Mirror said it was 30, The Telegraph said it was 36 and The Sun said he could have bought a whole street.
The Sun's front page combined two quotes from Tony Blair speeches: "We are on the side of ordinary people against privilege. We must be purer than pure." If that was so, asked The Sun,"how the hell can Mandy stay?" It seems that after seeing yesterday's front pages, Tony Blair asked the same question.Reuse content