Labour leadership: Could it be (Lord) Mandy?


In light of the recent European election results, calls for Gordon Brown to step down as Prime Minister have risen to the fore, once again.

It’s been a disastrous 7 days for Mr Brown. It started with resignations from key cabinet members, including James Purnell and Jacqui Smith, and ended with voters in the north of England prefering to give their MEP seats to the extremist British National Party rather than Labour. (The fact that they didn’t turn to the Conversatives or Lib Dem either perhaps indicates how disheartened the electorate are with the main parties but that’s a topic for another day.)

So is it time for Gordon to call it quits? Let’s face it, he’s not just had a disastrous week – it’s been a disastrous two years. As Have I Got News For You highlighted last week, for Brown to become PM and then lose his position without actually sitting out a general election, must be some sort of record.

To his credit, Brown has weathered this out fairly well. He’s survived two years of calls to have him step down and a general election to be called. He’s seen us through bird flu and the IMF recently praised him for his policies tackling the recession. Oh and he cares about Susan Boyle.

If Brown does step down – or is forced out – who could take his shoes? Already members of the party have bandied about names – David Miliband tips new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, as a “leading candidate” for any leadership contest. Or perhaps our beloved Chancellor, Alastair Darling, could step up to the mantle and take over as PM (if he did though it would need to be much better than how he has stepped up to the job of Chancellor)? What about David Miliband himself?

The real gem however would be Lord Mandy getting the job. Peter Mandelson has more lives than a proverbial cat. When Blair brought him back from the shadowy depths and put him out to pasture as the British Commissioner for the European Union no one could have predicted Mandelson would come back into British politics in quite the way he has. Brown developed a penchant for placing unelected peers into his cabinet – the recent cabinet reshuffle has seen even more unelected peers join Brown’s elite team (and a rather dubious association to Lord Sugar).

Quentin Letts and Andrew Gimson on Radio 5 Live this morning certainly seem to think Mandelson as PM would be great. “Mandy is an absolute wonder to behold…one does rather wish he could be prime minister in name as well as fact,” said Andrew Gimson. But can Lord Mandy really take the job? It raises many more questions over the accountability of the PM and government if he did. For starters, Mandelson has not been elected by the people and one wonders how he can or should govern the country, on behalf of the people without actually representing them in a conventional MP’s post. Not to mention his previous disgraces from government.

If Mandelson does become Labour leader it will no doubt throw everything this country has come to stand for in democracy into further turmoil. We can only sit and watch events unfold. The chaos of the expense saga, Brown’s unstable future and the rise of the BNP. It is a confusing time for British politics.

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