Sunday, 2 August 2009

Mandy for MP may not mean Mandy for PM

There is evidence that Peter Mandelson wants to return to the House of Commons.

Why? Why does he need to be an MP?

The conventional wisdom is that he wants to be leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. However, we should consider what this would mean. If he is parachuted into a super safe seat, then it might be possible to have in place by the end of the year. Could a man who had to resign a record number of times from the cabinet lead the party to victory? The odds suggest that the best that Labour can hope for is a hung parliament. Even that is probably a slim prospect.

A further question is whether he would actually get the job. Brown would have to step down – is that probable? Then, he would have to be elected by the party at large in a coronation – there is little time left for a fully contested election. Many in the Labour party - especially those on the left – would oppose him, whatever the cost. After all of that - would Mandelson want to return to lead the party to defeat?

Could it be that he wants to be an MP, one of the survivors after the next election? To run for leader in the aftermath? I think that this is more plausible - but still very unlikely. There would be time for the leadership battle, and some on the left might accept him as the price to prove that their party wasn’t heading for the 1980s again – a party lead by Mandy couldn’t be considered hard left, despite left wing policies.

Another issue, and one that I think is much more important, relates to the Tory plans for the Lords (what follows assumes a Tory victory). Currently there is a Labour majority. Brown (or whoever is the Labour leader at the next election) will submit a large honours list as well. Cameron could deal with this by appointing a vast number of new Lords – but this would swell the size of the house to ridiculous proportions. More likely is the possibility of a largely (90%?) elected house of a smaller, fixed size. This would just happen to chuck out the vast majority of the peers created under New Labour. Mandy and Michael Martin losing their positions would play very nicely with the Conservative base. To the public at large a massive cut in the size of the House of Lords combined elections and clearing out the dead wood could be a very popular.

The impetus for such reform will be the (almost certain) use of the Labour majority to try and stop the policies of the new Conservative government. I do not expect them to respect convention on what the Lords can and cannot do. They will see themselves as the last bastion of the Labour party, and will attack in whatever way they can.

Mandy would be smart to avoid this sad fight – the sight of the life peers vainly trying to hold onto their allowances will not be pretty and will play very badly with the public. Peter Mandelson MP would be unaffected - he could get on with the job he probably wants, being the power behind the throne. Betting on him becoming PM before the election seems like a very long shot to me – even afterwards would be improbable. But Mandy returning to the Commons seems increasingly likely.


Morris Dancer said...

I do wonder whether or not Mandelson's actually thought it through. He could well end up leading one side in a civil war between the Left, the Politically Correct Bigots (led by Harman) and New Labour.

It'll be interesting if Labour does implode, but I can't see the Lib Dems overtaking them.

Richard Nabavi said...

Interesting - and a very good point about how the Lords might prove an obstruction to Cameron.

But I'm not sure I buy the thesis as regards Mandy. I can see Mandelson wanting to be Foreign Secretary (like his grand-dad), or Prime Minister (because he no doubt thinks, not without reason, that he towers above the political pygmies in the Cabinet, including the current PM).

But rather than being an opposition MP, without real power and without even the trappings of power, wouldn't he prefer to take up some European sinecure where his talents would be more appreciated?