Today in Politics: Why Mandelson is back
Who would have thought it? Peter Mandelson is making a shock return to the Cabinet as Business Secretary in the reshuffle to be announced by Gordon Brown later today. It's a gamble by Brown to recall such a controversial figure. But a calculated one. It will reassure Blairites that Brown wants to be an inclusive Prime Minister, balancing his decision to promote the arch-Brownite Nick Brown to his old post of Chief Whip (which rebel Labour MPs won't like).
The Brown-Mandelson relationship has changed in recent months. The two old foes were brought together by an unlikely match-maker in Nicolas Sarkozy. The French President opposed cuts in farm subsidies in the world trade talks in which Mandelson represented the EU as its Trade Commissioner. Brown backed Mandelson and, inevitably, the two men got talking about domestic politics too, as I reported in July. It seems that Brown increasingly asked for Mandelson's advice on how to mount a political fightback - along with that of Alastair Campbell, another member of the Blair inner circle. It's a bit misleading to brand both men as "Blairites": they are both tribal Labourites, which is why they were happy to come to Brown's aid at a time when he was at rock bottom. "We're all Brownites now," quipped one Blairite MP. Sorry - I mean Brownite, of course.
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