Mandelson stirs pot with swipe at Brown's failure to move on

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Gordon Brown has never fully reconciled himself with the Labour Party's decision to elect Tony Blair as its leader in 1994, Peter Mandelson has said.

The former cabinet minister and close Blair ally blamed the tensions between the Prime Minister and Chancellor on the "fissure" caused by Mr Brown's failure to win the leadership in 1994.

Mr Mandelson used a candid BBC Radio 4 interview yesterday to send a message that the Blair camp was ready to "move on" after Mr Brown extended a peace offer to the Prime Minister in his Labour conference speech on Monday. He said he had the qualities to beat David Cameron at the next general election.

The Chancellor's move - including an apology for the disagreements between the two men - was overshadowed by Cherie Blair's alleged outburst that Mr Brown told "a lie" when he said it had been a privilege to work with Mr Blair.

Mr Mandelson's own relationship with Mr Brown never recovered after he backed Mr Blair as the modernisers' candidate in the 1994 Labour leadership - even though Mr Brown was then seen as the senior partner in their double act. Although he is distrusted by the Brown camp, Blairite cabinet ministers said he was relaying a message that the Prime Minister was ready to "forgive and forget" the attempted coup against him by Brown supporters three weeks ago.

Mr Mandelson told the Today programme that if Mr Brown was elected to succeed him as Labour leader, Mr Blair would want him to go on to be a successful prime minister. "He doesn't want to be the great New Labour godlike figure who is worshipped by us all only to be succeeded by something completely different which fails," he said.

The European trade commissioner said: "Within the New Labour family there has been a fissure really from the word go. Gordon thought he could and should have been leader in 1994. He believed that he should have succeeded John Smith and he has never fully reconciled himself to not doing so."

Mr Mandelson hoped that Mr Blair and Mr Brown could now finally put their differences behind them. "A very deep breach opened up - one, let us hope, can now be closed with the passage of time," he said.

"While it was difficult to reconcile himself to losing something that he wanted very much, I think within Gordon there is a recognition that actually Tony has done very well. For all the regrets that he might have had that he wasn't leader and prime minister himself during this period, I think he does recognise Tony Blair's qualities and I think that is entirely reciprocated from Tony to Gordon Brown."

But he also warned that the Chancellor would need to adopt a different style. "There has to be genuine inclusiveness in our party if the different tribes are going to be welded together and a really strong fighting force for the next election created from them," he said.

"That must take the form, not just of an embrace in public, but a real private determination to bring the party together and to unify it on the basis of a New Labour platform which I believe Gordon believes in and will espouse very powerfully."

Describing Mr Brown as "a winner", Mr Mandelson said: "I think the public when they have the opportunity to judge him over time - not just as a successful Chancellor but, if he were to be elected leader of the Labour Party, as their nation's leader as well, they will come to a rather different view from the rather superficial view that is being expressed by some at the moment about him."