What’s behind Mandelson’s series of weekend announcements?
Anybody who has followed the news over the past couple of days could not have missed the presence of the former close aide to Blair, Britain’s current commissioner at the EU, and the person that Brown is said to blame for him not getting the labour leadership in 1994.
We’ve had a spate of interviews with the ex-Labour communications chief, the news of his desire to step down from his EU role in 2009 and even a suggestion that he “might want to return to Hartlepool.”
And also it’s being suggested this morning that he was behind yesterday’s stories that Blair is saying that Miliband could beat Brown
This has led to a counter accusation reported in today’s Independent that Mandelson’s move was a “botched coup” against Gordon.
If this story is right it shows the extraordinary state of mind of the Brown gang. There isn’t a vacancy yet; there is a process that will be gone through when a vacancy does occur; and any Labour MP who can get the backing of 44 colleagues can put him or herself forward.
Why is Brown so desperate that he gets the job without a serious fight? Surely a hard fought contest would invigorate the party and provide a great springboard for turning Labour round?
As it is the Mandelson moves have probably helped the chancellor because there is one thing you can say about the ex-Hartlepool MP – he’s probably less popular within the party than just about anybody.
His actions can be portrayed as someone who has looked into the future and can see a Labour government where he does not have any access to the heart of power any more.
Labour has been making light of the appalling opinion polls since the budget and the latest figures showing that Brown is now the most unpopular politician within the country. That strategy is going to be hard to sustain unless the polling numbers change.
To my mind the post-budget polls have changed everything. There are two mutually exclusive options – either Labour is toast or Brown is toast. At the moment the party appears to prefer the former and be in a collective state of denial about the numbers.
If that mindset continues then Brown’s succession is a certainty. If not then anything can happen.