UK Politics

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Peter Mandelson: An Obituary

8 May 2018 at 09:00

Back in 2009 GQ asked me to write a fake obituary of Peter Mandelson, along with Andrew Roberts, John Kampfner, Stephen Bayley, Matthew D’Ancona and John Rentoul. I decided to make mine rather more tongue in cheek than some of the others did, but they were all hugely entertaining…

Peter Mandelson, who has died at the age of 81, was the last surviving member of the trio who founded ‘New Labour’. Along with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown he developed a political philosophy and election winning techniques that dominated British politics for more than a decade at the cusp of the last century.

Peter Mandelson left government in 2010 in disgrace – for the third time. Two years previously he had made an unexpected return to the front line of British politics, overcoming a decade long feud with the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The three years of Gordon Brown’s premiership were not happy ones for the Labour Party or the country with economic and social breakdown besetting them at every turn. Mandelson, who had made his reputation as the Rasputin of ‘New’ Labour did what he could to prop up a clumsy and faltering Prime Minister, while promoting his own agenda and position at every opportunity. It was in doing this that he committed what later came to be seen as the defining act that finally ruined any chance Labour had of winning re-election. In a TV debate with Shadow Chancellor George Osborne he was filmed slipping an ecstasy pill into Osborne’s glass. Having resigned on two occasions during Tony Blair’s first term of office, his third resignation only weeks before the April 2010 general election plunged the Labour Party into two decades of infighting, from which it only recently recovered fifteen years later with the election of teenage glamour model Princess Tiaamii Andre-Price as leader.

In the years following that defeat for his party and his subsequent retirement from public life Mandelson did much to atone for his actions. He eschewed the lucrative business and consultancy appointments that had once seemed his for the taking, with the concomitant fortune that he would have made. Instead he devoted the rest of his life to quiet acts of practical charity and voluntary work. And there are many who speak now of his kindness and generosity in the help that he gave.

By 2025, the country was teetering on the verge of economic and social chaos, and in June that year, the army stepped in to restore order. It was a ‘very British coup’ with no troops on the street. King William suspended parliament and on military recommendation asked the 72 year old Senator Mandelson to come out of retirement to form a puppet administration. It has been difficult to locate the Senator, who, some years earlier had devoted his life to becoming a Buddhist monk wandering from village to village living off food handouts. He was finally tracked down to a shanty town outside Rio de Janeiro.

Mandelson’s period as Lord Protector lasted barely two weeks before his old rival, George Osborne led a march on Whitehall, and seized power in a final bid to get one over on the man whose summer holiday in the Aegean in 2008 had so very nearly ruined such a promising political career. Senator Mandelson did not go quietly, appearing on Sky News being dragged from Number Ten Downing Street screaming “I’m a fighter, not a quitter.”

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