Who the hell do Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown think they are?

One had to resign twice, the other tried to win an election and failed – it's time for them to pipe down

Oliver Griffin
Tuesday 18 August 2015 18:33
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Lord Mandelson is congratulated by Gordon Brown after speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton
Lord Mandelson is congratulated by Gordon Brown after speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton

Among the tranche of former Labour leaders and past glory-boys stumbling over themselves to criticise Jeremy Corbyn, the most recent – and possibly most ridiculous – are Gordon Brown and Lord Peter Mandelson.

Both of these men are arguably Labour’s least popular former policy makers, even more so than Tony Blair himself.

Mandelson’s latest reported manoeuvre – trying to scupper the leadership contest by orchestrating a mass withdrawal of the other candidates – is a fine example of the worst that Blairites have to offer. If anything, it is a credit to Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall that they didn’t follow his advice – although the two female candidates have both denied that they were ever asked to do anything.

Mandelson isn't called the Prince of Darkness for nothing. Alastair Campbell, himself burdened with a reputation of possessing a nasty streak, recorded in his diaries that Mandelson once threw a punch at him after arguing over what clothes Blair would wear while door stopping voters. "I said I just wanted to be able to do a job. He started to leave then came back over, pushed at me, then threw a punch, then another," Campbell writes. "I grabbed his lapels to disable his arms and [Tony Blair] was by now moving in to separate us and [Mandelson] just lunged at him, then looked back at me and shouted, 'I hate this. I'm going back to London'."

During his time under the Blair administration, Mandelson was forced to resign not once, but twice, due to allegations of a lack of transparency in his government work. Although exonerated in the second instance – he was found not to have influenced a passport application decision. So when it comes to suitability and legitimacy within Labour, shouldn't Peter be keeping his coups to himself?

As for Brown, where to start? His criticisms of Corbyn are farcical. The idea that he could label a leadership contender unelectable, after standing for one election before being defeated, is laughable at best. Sure, Tony Blair has had a pop at Corbyn for the same reason. But he's actually won three elections, as opposed to Brown's grand total of zero.

What's more, coming from a man who is renowned for his bullyboy tactics, Brown’s calls for calm are hypocritical to say the least. His central involvement with the infighting that almost ripped Labour apart prior to Blair’s resignation was the final nail in the coffin of his credibility. And part of the reason he failed in 2010 was because he was so unlikeable as a person.

This is not a Corbynite rant against the North Islington MP's critics. This morning, I actually voted for Andy Burnham as my first preference for Labour leader. This concerns the gall of two deeply unappealing politicians attempting to influence a party that would rather move on from their legacies.

Corbyn supporters are not going to heed advice from Brown or Mandelson. And for those who don’t want Corbyn to win, their constant interferences are damaging. Writing in Sun Nation, columnist Trevor Kavanagh gets it right when he blasts Brown and Blair for meddling in the leadership campaign. Their involvement, Kavanagh says, has made Labour members wary of “identikit professional politicians who cheat and lie to win power”.

It’s time for Mandelson and Brown to pipe down, preferably disappearing from the Labour landscape altogether. Their combined reputations for either alleged dodgy dealings – and general unpleasantness – cannot help Labour now. Rather, their constant disparaging and scheming against Corbyn will only become more embarrassing. The best thing they can do is to stay quiet, and to leave the debate to politicians with more credibility.

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