Is Peter Mandelson preparing to become Prime Minister?
Cranmer is of the opinion in both cases that ‘life’ should mean ‘life’.
But his opinion is of no consequence.
His Grace has been pondering this development. Cui bono?
And there is only one:
The Right Honourable the Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham, First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Privy Council and Secretary of State for Business and Secretary of State for Innovation and Skills.
The post of First Secretary of State is about as senior as one can now be as an unelected peer. The roles of foreign secretary, chancellor of the exchequer or prime minister present certain constitutionally difficult issues for a member of the House of Lords to perform. Of course, Lord Salisbury managed it, but in a very different era. The proposal now is that life peers would still retain their titles even if they do resign from the Upper Chamber, thereby permitting the Lord Mandelson to once again enter the House of Commons.
It has been widely reported that he wishes to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Herbert Morrison, and become foreign secretary: it would be his ‘dream job’.
The fact that it would be another’s nightmare is neither here nor there. Now that Lord Mandelson is the most powerful politician in the land, he is able to legislate for his own personal ambition. And he alluded to doing so more than a year ago in an interview with the Financial Times:
FT: That’s touching. Have you ever considered renouncing your life peerage and standing again for the House of Commons?
PM: It’s not possible legally to do that.
FT: There’s no way you can do it?
PM: Nor have I made any inquiry. [Laughter]. Therefore, I’m trapped.
FT: Is it really not possible?
PM: I believe. I believe it is for life. That is what a life peerage is.
FT: Does it feel like a life sentence now you’ve got the taste for British politics back again?
PM: [Sneering, with his little finger curled to the corner of his mouth] Of course, you could always change the law.
FT [Laughs]: Part of the next Labour manifesto?
PM: You may see it on Monday.
FT: Really? That is a joke, I presume.
Disclosing the manifesto may have been a joke (as is Cranmer’s allusion to Dr Evil), but the possibility of changing the law manifestly was not. This proposal was clearly being formulated at the very time Peter Mandelson was being elevated to the Lords, and one can only assume that it was a condition of his elevation that it could be rescinded. When one asks ‘cui bono?’, there is necessarily a hidden motive.
We should not forget that Peter Mandelson is a fighter, not a quitter.
Lord Mandelson is manifestly fighting for a route back to front bench politics in the House of Commons, paving the way for his adoption by a ‘safe’ constituency and taking a more senior position in the Cabinet.
Forget his personal corruption, undeclared loans, implication in sleaze, obsession with spin or the slightly inconvenient fact that he has had to resign twice from the Cabinet for conduct unbecoming. Anyone who dares to refer these unfortunate episodes would conveniently be labelled a homophobe. For that plea now covers a multitude of sins: it is as politically effectual as the blood of Christ is for the salvation of the soul. Calling someone a homophobe or a bigot or a homophobic bigot now neutralises all that they say on any matter. Like ‘racist’, the mere accusation can now terminate careers and tarnish reputations in perpetuity.
Thus, even when the professional reputation of the delinquent is already sullied, it is he, the victim, who becomes victorious.