Andrew Grice: Just as Mandelson was finally winning over his party...

Share
Related Topics

After Lord Mandelson wowed last month's Labour conference, Tony Blair sent him a text in which he jokingly asked whether the party had been won over by the Business Secretary or whether it was the other way round.

Mr Blair once famously said his project would be complete when Labour learnt to love Peter Mandelson. It seemed that his electrifying speech made it mission accomplished. Now, only three weeks later, the unlikely love affair has been rudely interrupted. Among trade unions and some Labour MPs, Cuddly Peter seems to have reverted to his role as Nasty Peter in the postal workers' dispute.

Distancing the party from its union founders was one of the New Labour tablets of stone carved out by Lord Mandelson, Mr Blair and Gordon Brown in the late 1980s. So, his allies claim, the Business Secretary made a convenient fall guy for the Communication Workers Union to blame when talks with Royal Mail bosses failed to avert the two-day strike that began yesterday.

The union's blame game was helped by Lord Mandelson's retreat over his controversial plan to part-privatise Royal Mail this spring. Officially, the reason was a lack of buyers in the global recession. But there was also a huge backbench rebellion by 147 Labour MPs who backed the CWU's opposition to the sell-off. So it was tempting for the union to accuse the Business Secretary of launching a revenge attack.

Lord Mandelson's aides are adamant that he did not scupper a deal that was on the table on Tuesday, accusing the union of using "scattergun attacks" on him and the Royal Mail chief executive, Adam Crozier, to divert attention away from its own internal politics. Ministers are convinced that the CWU leaders Billy Hayes and Dave Ward wanted to accept the proposed agreement but were blocked by hard-line branches, mainly in London.

Although the dispute is between a management and union, it is becoming a hot political potato. Royal Mail is one of the few remaining industries in state ownership and feelings are running high among Labour MPs. Some 121 of them have signed a Commons motion welcoming the CWU's proposals to resolve the conflict and urging the Government "to do all in its power to ensure that Royal Mail responds positively".

David Cameron scents blood. He devoted all his six questions at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday to the dispute, citing it as an example of Mr Brown's weakness. His gamble paid off when the last-minute talks failed and he made the TV news bulletins, underlining the Government's involvement in the minds of some voters and giving Mr Brown yet another headache he could do without.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there