Mandelson - the true story

Thomas Creevey his diary
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The Independent Online
As I was saying before the Great Leader sent our legislators away to plant rice in the constituencies, the rise and rise of Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio (but with Great Ambitions) continues to amaze. Despite his freakish passion for the absurd great Millennium Dome of Greenwich, he has high hopes of election to Labour's national executive committee tomorrow, though there have been last-minute nerves over whether he will make it. The constituencies have spoken, and if they have found him a chair at the top table, can the Cabinet be far behind?

Such a story naturally demands a good telling, and Creevey's scouts insist there is already a queue of those wanting to tell it. Francis Beckett, pop historian of the Communist Party of Great Britain and author of a study of Clement Attlee, is said to be toiling on one version, but apparently without access to the Prince of Darkness. Meanwhile, several others, including folk from the electronic media, have approached the subject in the hope of writing the authoritative Life of Mandelson. But what is this? My colleague Donald Macintyre, chief political commentator of the Independent, and now being mentioned as Peter's preferred choice as biographer, looks like emerging as the front-runner. Brother Macintyre, whose knowledge of Mandelson goes back some years, is uncharacteristically reticent. "I can't discuss this, bigmouth," he confides.

GORDON BROWN insists that money isn't everything. But, as he found out during his Far Eastern tour last week, it can sometimes help. His plane was diverted to Madagascar and when his economic adviser Ed Balls nipped down the steps for a comfort break, he met a well-armed gentleman in fatigues and wraparound shades who demanded $100 for the privilege. Protests about unauthorised public spending were of no avail. Balls had visions of headlines screaming "Biggest Treasury Leak in History" and refused to pay. By the way, Creevey can authoritatively deny reports that there will be a pay bar at Balls' wedding next year to Yvette Cooper, brainbox MP for Pontefract and Castleford.

THE control freaks in charge of Labour have struck a fresh blow. Eryl McNally, Euro MP for Bedfordshire, has been banned from appearing on television by the party image-makers. Her offence? Her eye make-up is "too Sixties".

AND don't say that Blair isn't loving every minute of his new-found eminence. Fuming pass- engers on the number 12 bus from south London (which is normally awash with Labour MPs when Parliament is sitting) were forced to wait last week while a policeman of tender years held up the traffic in Walworth Road to let the Great Leader's mini-motorcade sweep majestically into the side road to John Smith House. He wouldn't normally be seen dead there, of course, but he just had to be present for the National Executive Committee show trial of Glasgow's "numpty" councillors.

By the way, what will they do with the fine John Smith House plaque outside the party's old HQ? Has the last leader been consigned totally to history?

JERRY HAYES, the flamboyant former Tory MP for Harlow, has finally found his niche. Inside the politician, there was always a journalist trying to get out. Purple Hayes is now political correspondent for the relaunched Punch magazine, and last week attended the Liberal Democrats' conference in Eastbourne. He took a veteran lobby reporter to one side and confided: "These MPs, they do talk a lot, don't they?" Yes, Jezza, they do.

SO very good to see that Paul Tyler, MP for Cornwall North and one-time public relations wizard, has been named Country Parliamentarian of the year, for championing the cause of farmers. So sad that unlike his old party boss Lord David Steel he didn't get pounds 94,000 for his efforts but only a magnum of champagne from Laurent Perrier. Why is there so much esteem and reward, one wonders, for looking after the interests of subsidy- cosseted yokels? There is no equivalent praise for MPs who stick up for manufacturing - which makes money, rather than the other way round. Why isn't there a Friends of Heavy Industry to dish out the annual Golden Spanner for the MP who promotes real work? Step forward, ye captains of industry!

THE myth of 1997 was that Birmingham Edgbaston was the first "swing" constituency to change hands from Tory to Labour. Not so. My former colleague Brian Cathcart reveals in his new book on the general election this week, Were You Still Up For Portillo? that Crosby, Lancs, was the real Basildon, declaring Clare Curtis-Thomas the winner a full 15 minutes before Gisela Stuart. Truth is, nobody expected haughty Clare to win, and the TV cameras stayed away.

Paul Routledge