Mandelson to join Blair euro campaign

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Indy Politics

Peter Mandelson is likely to join Tony Blair's campaign on Europe and the euro, it emerged this weekend.

The former Northern Ireland Secretary is expected to avoid taking a high-profile role so as not to upset the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, but he could play an important backroom role in preparing the euro referendum for Mr Blair.

Speculation that he would return to office increased after Mr Blair's aides greeted the inconclusive Hammond inquiry report, published on Friday, by issuing an unprecedented apology for forcing him to stand down.

Satisfied that his name had been cleared, Mr Mandelson, 49, made it clear he would not return to the Cabinet even if Mr Blair offered him a seat. He said on BBC: "I don't want to go back into the firing line."

But he said he was prepared to speak out on Europe. "There are really important domestic issues which I want to engage in. There are international issues which I want to engage in and campaign on. I notice that Peter Hain [the minister for Europe] received a warning from the Sun newspaper that if he continued sticking his neck out, he would receive the same treatment as I did. I am sure that won't discourage him and it won't discourage me."

He is due to be among the guests this week, with former Tory leadership candidate Michael Portillo, at a Centre for European Reform reception hosted by the Belgian ambassador. He denied that he would quit his Hartlepool seat to replace Neil Kinnock as Britain's European commissioner, saying he would not take posts abroad before the next election.

The new evidence supplied by Mr Mandelson to the reopened Hammond inquiry failed to determine the truth about an alleged phone call to a Home Office minister by Mr Mandelson in support of a passport for S P Hinduja, who had donated money for the Dome, for which Mr Mandelson had been responsible.

The evidence included a scribbled note from his private secretary saying: "Agree that you cannot be seen to push this personally much further. No matter how justified S P's nationality claim is, media and others will accuse you of improper influence (motivated by Dome connection). Advise that we await outcome of Home Office's own investigations – and avoid anything in writing for time being."