Is the new Cabinet “a supergroup or a sad tribute act”?
Peter Mandelson’s return to Cabinet for a third time has given the Sunday papers plenty to consider. The man himself gives an interview to the Observer in which he states that he is “joined at the hip to the PM”, who will lead the party into the next election. The paper says that Miliband’s leadership ambitions are now dead in the water as the Blairites rally round during the crisis, with Mandelson only returning after gaining approval from Blair.
The Sunday Times reports however that Mandelson “dripped pure poison” into the ear of a senior Tory only a few weeks ago – this has been dismissed by Mandelson as the work of the Conservative propaganda unit. The Independent reports that the former European trade commissioner imposed a series of conditions on his return, including the side-lining of one of the Prime Minister’s key lieutenants, and that he is also expected to be given a role in drawing up the manifesto.
As well as Ed Balls describing the return of Mandelson as a risk, reportedly begging the PM not to bring him back, it’s also emerged that John Cruddas rejected several offers of a government post, although it’s thought he may be given a campaigning role taking on the BNP. David Cameron is also preparing for a reshuffle, having been closely monitoring his team’s performance over the last year. Spelman is obviously his biggest concern, while Grayling, Pickles, and also Jeremy Hunt are frontrunners for new party chairman – but should Cameron really be ignoring yesterday’s advice on PB?
The Sunday Times heads up a detailed piece by asking whether the reshuffle has produced a “supergroup, or a sad tribute act?” while Andrew Rawnsley remarks that “Christ rose from the dead just once” – the key considerations behind Mandelson’s return being political and economic survival. A coup against Brown is for now far less likely, but as Rawnsley concludes:
“…Only a fool would bet against this ending in horrible tantrums and acid tears. But at this time of high peril for the project to which they have devoted their lives, fighting old wars suddenly seems less important than fighting for their legacy.”
In the News of the World, as well as Fraser Nelson describing Mandelson as the spine for a rebellion to run down, Ian Kirby says that he was brought back in order to stop five ministers quitting – with Straw, Hutton, Jowell, Purnell, and Blears all so fed up they were about to resign.
Finally, as well as various ways in which the reshuffle is already unravelling, the Mail on Sunday reports that another big comeback is just around the corner in the shape of David Blunkett, who is tipped for a return in another ministerial shakeup in the New Year. Quite possibly good news for punters, as Our Genial Host recommends betting on anything involving Blunkett in his book The Political Punter.