The clouds parted and the Lord came down among us.
Mandelson, ennobled, can't answer questions in the House of Commons. He came to the committee instead. They fell over themselves to welcome him and laugh at his jokes. The Tories were particularly hospitable. The chairman kept thanking him for coming. Julie Kirkbride bobbed submissively. Lindsay Hoyle alone was unimpressed. It is his talent. He is from Chorley. He said at some length that the practice of appointing people to the Lords in order to get them into the Cabinet was "unacceptable".
Lord Mandelson replied: "I'll pass your views on to the Prime Minister." Or as other people put it: "Fuck off."
No one rattled Lord M, no one disturbed him. He is imperturbable. Impenetrable. Criticism slides off him. When under pressure he talks more quietly, and no more quickly. Unlike Gordon Brown he never seems to say anything he doesn't mean.
He is one of the few politicians with a sense of personal power. John Reid's like that. Michael Howard is, too. Cameron's got it a bit. Gordon only has it because he puts so much effort into it. Without Mandelson the Government would have imploded by now.
In his department – this new, germanic Economics Ministry he has assembled under him – Mandelson is much admired by his civil servants. "He's always listening," one said. True, that would make many of us uncomfortable. His only fault? People will only know things he wants them to know. And so the committee learned nothing.
A sketch in two halves: To be fair to Bercow, it probably wasn't him who leaked his own announcement about electing new deputy speakers. That would be too much to hope for. He thinks it's the whips who traduced him, and has threatened that if they do so again he will never consult them on anything.
"And there was war in heaven"! That was quick.
He is proposing to boot out the deputy speakers after the recess and have elections for their posts (hitherto deputies have been appointed by the whips). This is modern. Transparent. Accountable. But nothing is simple. If the whole House votes on each candidate the Tories will probably fail to get a deputy (Labour vote themselves two and the Lib-Dems get one, with Labour support). So to solve this (says a source close to the Speaker), he wants to restrict the voting for government candidates to the government side, and for opposition candidates to the opposition's side.
Bercow is a great expert on procedure and has presumably cleared a path through to this idea. But Speakers are supposed to represent the whole House, not this side or that. So Bercow's first major initiative is to inject party politics into matters that are supposed to be above and beyond such squalor. By his works shall ye know him.