Simon Carr: True lies... a masterclass in the art of interview

The Sketch: Why aren't people rallying to Peter Mandelson as next leader of the Labour Party?

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What a performance (
The Andrew Marr Show, yesterday). Why aren't people rallying to Peter Mandelson as next leader of the Labour Party? It's true the answer to that would overload the internet, but he is clearly the superior of every cabinet colleague – including the Prime Minister – in weight, delivery, temperament, strategic intelligence, personal command, professional control. He even has charm when he chooses to deploy it, in his dusty, reluctant smile.

But in that way of talking he has, there lies the mystery. How he can bestride the political world and yet say things that are so untrue they come out of his mouth in a different colour? For instance ...

Marr: "Can you look me in the eye and say Gordon Brown got the reshuffle he wanted?"

Mandelson looked him in the eye and said: "Yes, I can."

So that email he wrote, describing Brown as insecure, uncomfortable, angry, a loser. Were they his words? He said, somehow without denying it: "No."

Also ... he didn't want to go to the Foreign Office. Hazel Blears is at ease with Gordon Brown's style of leadership. And as for Ed Balls blaming him for not getting the Treasury? "Ed and I laughed out loud at this stupid fabrication!"

It's hyperbole dressed as journalism. Noises off. A sideshow. "But are you going to hear me complain about the media?"

Marr: "You've done nothing else for the last 20 minutes!" Mandelson sailed on. All Labour has to do is "get the policies right, get the Cabinet working as a team, get the party behind us and genetically create a unicorn out of reconstituted DNA and public opinion will turn the corner". Incidentally, one item in that list was hyperbole dressed as journalism.

Still, occasionally even he can't pull it off. "The Prime Minister needs to be what he is," he said. What is that? An absurd, boastful, insecure, angry loser. Who said so? Peter Mandelson? No. Or as we hyperbolic tittle-tattlers say, "Yes".

On the timing of his part-privatisation of the Post Office going through the Commons, all Marr could get was: "In due course. Next? What's your next question?"

The next question is how will Gordon Brown survive this Post Office Bill when 100 backbenchers will unseat him if he puts it into the Commons, and Mandelson will unseat him if he doesn't?

Mandelson's last word was the truest: "People in the Cabinet think highly of Gordon Brown and are united against him." He may not have meant it like that, but Gordon's unifying force is plain to see.

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