Is there anything to be learnt from the recent revelations that Peter — now Baron — Mandelson and Tory shadow Chancellor George Osborne have connections with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska?
On one level we might just shrug and say “flies gather round shit.”
That is too easy. We really do need register how this incident demonstrates venality at senior levels in both of Britain’s major mainstream parties. And how it is a dramatic measure of the degeneration of the Labour Party and government.
One of Labour’s few remaining socialist MPs, John McDonnell, denounced Mandelson’s return: “This is an extraordinary step backwards into the worst elements of the Blair era, to reinstate possibly the most divisive figure in Labour’s recent history.” Brown felt able to bring back Mandelson only because the union leaderships and Labour Party as a whole made no complaint.
Mandelson is an extreme example of what Blairism brought to Labour. He was responsible for a regime of spin and manipulation; he helped the separation of the Labour government from labour movement and party from unions. His lifestyle, and his addiction to inserting himself among the super-rich, were consistent with his contempt for the working class and the labour movement.
It would be possible to be all these things and still be “clean”. But Mandelson is damaged goods.
He first resigned as New Labour’s Trade Secretary in December 1998, when it was revealed he had received a secret loan from millionaire and fellow minister Geoffrey Robinson.
He resigned again, as Northern Ireland Secretary, in January 2001, when it was disclosed he had helped one of the billionaire Indian Hinduja brothers in get a UK passport. At the time, the Hindujas were involved in a criminal investigation in India.
When Baron Mandelson was reappointed to government he grinned and declared “third time lucky”, meaning no doubt that he hoped this time he wasn’t going to get caught out in this or that dodgy deal. Brown not only puts up with that kind of arrogance, but brings Mandelson back to “strengthen” the government. He must have some kind of admiration for it. It is a sign of what Labour has become.