on October 3rd, 2008 at 01:14 pm
Last summer Gordon Brown cited the appointments of a collection of minor figures as a evidence that his was a “government of all the talents”. Like so much over the past 12 months this turned out to be nothing but words.
Today Gordon Brown might actually mean it. In returning Peter Mandelson to his rightful place at the heart of government he has drawn to an end a saga which started with a passport application and ended with one of New Labour’s creators being jettisoned from office for no obvious reason.
Peter Mandelson is one of the few class acts in British politics. His loyalty to the Labour party is without question (though returning to Whitehall was not a straightforward decision for him) and his leadership qualities have never been in doubt. He also now has a wealth of experience at the highest level in global politics have represented Europe in trade talks with heads of government and the WTO.
In recent months Gordon Brown sought to re-establish his links with Peter through a series of strategy meetings and many phone calls. It was a reflection on the Prime Minister’s perilous position that he sought advice from someone who he pursued a vendetta against for more than a decade following his failure to replace John Smith as leader of the Labour party in 1994. In that time Gordon Brown’s acolytes have held no-one in greater contempt than Peter, their reaction to this news, as with most things that they say to the press, is probably unprintable.
Whether he can turn things around for Gordon Brown is another matter. He certainly will not be able to do it single-handedly. But he will be able to bring a level of maturity and confidence that the government has been lacking since Tony Blair left office. His ability to have an impact on the global financial crisis is an even bigger question. Since he took the job in Brussels he has acquired a strong grasp on the challenges facing economies like Britain’s and has built a network of global contacts (particularly in China, India, Russia and the USA) that might be able to help deliver the investment and prosperity which the country needs.
Anyone who supports the Labour party should be pleased about this news. On a personal level I am thrilled. When I wrote this piece following his second resignation I said that his career in politics was over. In the same article I said that he gave his enemies a good run for their money. Anyone who has known Peter since then would say that he kept on running and his energy has paid off with a return to the cabinet for an unprecedented third time and the chance to support his party and its government.