Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Baron Mandelson, PC (born 21 October 1953) is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hartlepool from 1992 to 2004, served in a number of Cabinet positions under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and was a European Commissioner. He was a key architect in the rebranding of the Labour Party as „New Labour“ and its subsequent landslide victory in the 1997 general election.
He twice resigned from Tony Blair’s government while holding Cabinet positions. After his second resignation, he served as the European Commissioner for Trade from 2004 to 2008. He rejoined the government when he was made a life peer by the Queen and took his seat in the House of Lords on 13 October 2008.
Peter Mandelson was born in London in 1953, the son of Mary Joyce (née Morrison) and George Norman Mandelson. His father’s family was Jewish, and his father was the advertising manager at The Jewish Chronicle. On his mother’s side, he is the grandson of Margaret (Kent) and Herbert Morrison, the London County Council leader and Labour cabinet minister. He was educated at Hendon County Grammar School 1965–72. In 1966 he appeared on stage with the local amateur theatre group, the Hampstead Garden Suburb Dramatic Society as the eponymous lead in The Winslow Boy. He read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Catherine’s College, Oxford (1973–1976) and in the late 1970s, became Chair of the British Youth Council. As Chair of the BYC, he was a delegate in 1978 to the Soviet-organised World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana, Cuba, where with several future Labour cabinet colleagues, he with Hilary Barnard, future IUSY President, and Trevor Phillips successfully frustrated agreement on a distorted Soviet text on youth in the capitalist countries. In his teenage years, he was also a member of the Young Communist League. but was a member of the Oxford University Labour Club delegation to the December 1975 NOLS Conference when the entryist Trotskyist Militant tendency lost control of NOLS. He was elected to Lambeth Borough Council in September 1979, but retired in 1982, disillusioned with the state of Labour politics.
Media and public relations
He worked as a television producer at London Weekend Television on Weekend World before Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock appointed him as Director of Communications in 1985, with a view to his overseeing Labour’s campaign for the next general election, which was ultimately held in June 1987 and ended in a third successive win for Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, although the Conservative majority was slightly reduced as Labour gained 20 seats.
Mandelson was able to secure close friendships within the Labour Party because of uncle Alexander Butler, who had worked alongside many important Labour politicians during the 1960s. In this role he was one of the first people in Britain to whom the term „spin doctor“ was applied; he was thus called ‚the Prince of Darkness‚ and, after his ennoblement, ‚the Dark Lord‘, nicknames he apparently enjoys having.
Mandelson has been given the nickname „Mandy“ in the popular media.
He made several speeches outlining his strong support for the European Union. He was close to two Shadow Cabinet members – Gordon Brown and Tony Blair – each regarded as potential future leaders, though he was sidelined during the brief period when John Smith led the party. After Smith’s sudden death in 1994, Mandelson chose to back Blair for the leadership, believing him to be a superior communicator to Brown and played a leading role in the leadership campaign. This created antagonism between Mandelson and Brown, though they were considered allies in the Labour Party.
He was appointed as a Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, where his job was to co-ordinate within government. A few months later, he also acquired responsibility for the Millennium Dome, after Blair decided to go ahead with the project despite the opposition of most of the Cabinet (including the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who had been running it). Jennie Page, the Dome Chief Executive, was abruptly sacked after a farcical opening night. She gave evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee for Culture and Heritage in June 2000. In what was seen as a reference to the close interest in the Dome from Mandelson, known at the time as so-called „Dome Secretary“, and his successor Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Ms Page told the committee: „I made several attempts to persuade ministers that standing back from the Dome would be good for them as well as good for the Dome“.
In July 1998, he joined the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He launched the Millennium Bug And Electronic Commerce Bill and a Competitiveness White Paper, which he described, as ‚bold, far reaching and absolutely necessary‘. He also appointed a ‚Net czar‘ to lead the UK in what he termed the „new industrial revolution“. In 1998 he was appointed a Privy Councillor.
Mandelson bought a home in Notting Hill in 1996 with the assistance of an interest-free loan of £373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson, a millionaire Labour MP who was also in the Government and subject to an inquiry into his business dealings by Mandelson’s department. Mandelson contended that he had deliberately not taken part in any decisions relating to Robinson. However, he had not declared the loan in the Register of Members‘ Interests, and resigned on 23 December 1998. Mandelson had also not declared the loan to his building society (the Britannia) although they decided not to take any action, with the CEO stating „I am satisfied that the information given to us at the time of the mortgage application was accurate.“ Mandelson initially thought he could weather the press storm, but had to resign when it became clear that the Prime Minister thought nothing else would clear the air.
He was out of the Cabinet for ten months. In October 1999, he was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, replacing Mo Mowlam. In his very first speech in the post he mistakenly referred to himself as the „Secretary of State for Ireland.“ During his tenure he oversaw the creation of the devolved legislative assembly and power-sharing executive, and reform of the police service.
On 24 January 2001, Mandelson resigned from the Government for a second time following accusations of using his position to influence a passport application. He had contacted Home Office minister Mike O’Brien on behalf of Srichand Hinduja, an Indian businessman who was seeking British citizenship, and whose family firm was to become the main sponsor of the „Faith Zone“ in the Millennium Dome. At the time, Hinduja and his brothers were under investigation by the Indian government for alleged involvement in the Bofors scandal. Mandelson insisted he had done nothing wrong and was exonerated by an independent inquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond which concluded that neither Mandelson nor anyone else had acted improperly. The front page headline in The Independent read in part „Passport to Oblivion“.
At the 2001 general election, Mandelson was challenged by Arthur Scargill of the Socialist Labour Party and by John Booth, a former Labour Party press officer standing as „Genuine Labour“, but Mandelson was re-elected with a large majority. This prompted him to make an exuberant acceptance speech, which was televised live, in which he declared that „I’m a fighter, not a quitter“ and referred to his „inner steel“.
Despite Labour success in the June 2001 general election, a third appointment to the Cabinet did not happen and he indicated his interest in becoming the United Kingdom’s European Commissioner when the new Commission was established in 2004. Both of Britain’s Commissioners, Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten, were due to stand down. Appointment as a Commissioner would require his resignation from Parliament and therefore a by-election in his Hartlepool constituency. His appointment was announced in the summer and on 8 September 2004 Mandelson resigned his seat through appointment as Steward of the Manor of Northstead. Labour won the subsequent Hartlepool by-election with a majority of more than 2,000.
During the Parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009, the Daily Telegraph raised questions about the timing of Mandelson’s second home allowance claim, dating from 2004, saying, „Lord Mandelson billed the taxpayer for almost £3,000 of work on his constituency home in Hartlepool less than a week after announcing his decision to stand down as an MP.“ Mandelson said in a statement, „The work done was necessary maintenance. All claims made were reasonable and submitted consistent with Parliamentary rules.“
On 22 November 2004, Mandelson became Britain’s European Commissioner, taking the trade portfolio.
On 22 April 2005, The Times revealed that Mandelson had spent the previous New Year’s Eve on the yacht of Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, which was at the centre of a major EU investigation, although it did not allege impropriety.
During the summer of 2008, Mandelson had a widely publicised disagreement with Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France. Sarkozy accused him of trying to sell out European farmers and appeared to blame his handling of the Doha round of trade talks for the „no“ vote in the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. Mandelson said his position at world trade talks had been undermined and told the BBC he did not start the row, saying, „I stood up for myself, I’m not to be bullied.“ He said he believed the row was over but renewed his warnings on protectionism.
In 2008, melamine added to milk in China caused kidney stones and other ailments in thousands of Chinese children, and killed at least six. To show his confidence in Chinese dairy products, Mandelson drank a glass of Chinese yoghurt in front of reporters. The following week, he was hospitalised for a kidney stone; the events were probably unconnected.
In October 2008, Mandelson was reported to have maintained private contacts over several years with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, most recently on holiday in August 2008 on Deripaska’s yacht at Taverna Agni on the Greek island of Corfu. News of the contacts sparked criticism because, as European Union trade commissioner, Mandelson had been responsible for two decisions to cut aluminium tariffs that had benefited Deripaska’s United Company RusAl. Mandelson denied that there had been a conflict of interest and insisted that he had never discussed aluminium tariffs with Deripaska. On 26 October 2008, the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague claimed the „whole country“ wanted „transparency“ about Mandelson’s previous meetings with Deripaska. In response, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Mandelson’s dealings with Deripaska had been „found to be above board“. Mandelson said that meeting business figures from „across the range“ in emerging economies was part of his brief as EU trade commissioner. On 29 October 2008, while Mandelson was on a ministerial visit to Moscow, it was alleged in the British press that, head of security at Deripaska’s company Basic Element Valery Pechenkin had organised a swift entry visa for Mandelson when he turned up in Moscow to visit Deripaska in 2005.
In October 2008 he left his post as Trade Commissioner to return to UK politics. As a former EU commissioner, Mandelson is entitled to a £31,000 pension when he reaches the age of 65 years. While this is contingent on a „duty of loyalty to the Communities“ which applies also after his term in office, Mandelson’s spokesperson denied there is a conflict of interest.
Return to cabinet
On 3 October 2008, as part of Gordon Brown’s cabinet reshuffle, it was announced amid some controversy that Mandelson would return to government in the re-drawn post of Business Secretary, and would be made a life peer, entitling him to a seat in the House of Lords. On 13 October 2008 he was created Baron Mandelson, of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham, and was introduced in the House of Lords the same day.
Since returning to office, Lord Mandelson has supported the planned Heathrow Airport expansion. On 6 March 2009, the environmental protester Leila Deen of anti-aviation group Plane Stupid approached him outside a summit on the government’s Low Carbon Industrial Strategy and threw a cup of green custard in his face, in protest over his support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The protester was cautioned on 9 April for causing „harassment, alarm or distress“.
In a cabinet reshuffle on 5 June 2009, Mandelson was appointed to the honorific office of First Secretary of State, and to the position of Lord President of the Council. It was also announced that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills would be merged into his, giving him the new title of Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and that he would continue as President of the Board of Trade.
Mandelson was a member of 35 of the 43 Cabinet committees and subcommittees. An opinion poll conducted by the centre-left think tank Compass found that Mandelson was proving to be more popular with rank and file party members than Deputy Party Leader Harriet Harman. This was claimed to be surprising due to Mandelson’s previously strained relationship with grassroots members, set against Harman’s record of success winning grassroots votes in her election as Deputy. It was also seen to be prophetic, and to tie-in with Tony Blair’s quote that his „mission would be completed when the Labour Party learned to love Mandelson“.
After the Labour Party failed to secure a majority in the 2010 general election and subsequent resignation of the Labour government, Mandelson published his memoirs „The Third Man: Life at the Heart of New Labour“ in July 2010, a little over two months after leaving office. The memoirs were subsequently criticised by Labour leadership contenders Ed and David Miliband and Andy Burnham.
In November 2010, Lord Mandelson became chairman of Global Counsel LLP, a consultancy firm, with the financial support of WPP, the advertising giant. On 21 January 2011, it was announced by that Lord Mandelson would serve as a Senior Adviser to the advisory investment banking firm, Lazard Ltd.
In May 2011, it was revealed that there was speculation that Mandelson had been approached by China to be a candidate for the leadership of the International Monetary Fund, even though Mandelson cannot stand since he has not been a finance minister or led a central government bank. However, it was then speculated that Mandelson would stand to succeed Pascal Lamy as Director General of the World Trade Organization, and has the backing of David Cameron.
In May 2012 Lord Mandelson confirmed advising Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) in selling timber products to Europe. In 2012 APP has been accused of illegal logging in Indonesia and damaging the habitats of rare animals such as the Sumatran tiger. At least 67 companies worldwide, such as Tesco and Kraft Foods since 2004 and Danone since 2012 have boycotted APP.
In October 1998, during his first period in the Cabinet, Mandelson was the centre of media attention when Matthew Parris (openly gay former MP and then Parliamentary sketch writer of The Times) mentioned during a live interview on Newsnight, in the wake of the resignation of Ron Davies, that „Peter Mandelson is certainly gay“.
In 2000, Mandelson publicly recognised his relationship with long-time partner Reinaldo Avila da Silva by allowing photographs of them together. Da Silva is Brazilian born but was naturalized as a British citizen around the end of August 2005.
Tam Dalyell, while Father of the House of Commons, claimed Mandelson formed part of Blair’s ‚Jewish cabal‘ in May 2003. In response Mandelson said: „Apart from the fact that I am not actually Jewish, I wear my father’s parentage with pride.“
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- Jones, Nicholas (2000): Sultans of Spin: The Media and the New Labour Government Orion Books, ISBN 0-7528-2769-3
- Macintyre, Donald (1999): Mandelson: The Biography Harper Collins, ISBN 0-00-255943-9
- Mandelson, Peter (2002): The Blair Revolution Revisited Politico’s, ISBN 1-84275-039-9
- Rawnsley, Andrew (2001): Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-027850-8
- Routledge, Paul (1999): Mandy: The Unauthorised Biography of Peter Mandelson Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-684-85175-X
- Seldon, Anthony (2005): Blair The Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-3212-7
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Peter Mandelson|
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Electoral history and profile at The Guardian
- Voting record at PublicWhip.org
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou.com
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Profile: Peter Mandelson BBC News, 3 October 2008, 13 August 2004
- Peter Mandelson: Interview in full, PublicAffairsAsia.com, 18 August 2008, on sovereign wealth funds
- Peter Mandelson: Interview on New Statesman, 1 October 2008.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Peter Mandelson on Charlie Rose
- Peter Mandelson at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Peter Mandelson in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Peter Mandelson collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Peter Mandelson collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Leveson inquiry: Lord Mandelson and Tessa Jowell – live (guardian.co.uk)
- Leveson Inquiry: Peter Mandelson Claims Press ‚Want to Make Themselves Untouchable‘ (ibtimes.com)
- Leaders ‚too close‘ to Murdoch (thisislondon.co.uk)
- Dear Roger Liddle, dear Peter Mandelson: think of organisation before you open your mouths about an EU referendum (jonworth.eu)
- Now even Peter Mandelson backs call for a vote on Europe (express.co.uk)
- Mandelson and Jowell to appear before Leveson (itv.com)
- Take a bow, Peter Mandelson. Ed Miliband says you secured the Nissan deal (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Mandelson: Brooks is ‚very good at keeping in touch‘ with politicians (itv.com)
- Mandelson denies deal with Murdoch (express.co.uk)
- Costs of youth unemployment rise by £2bn in three months – David Miliband (guardian.co.uk)
- The Third Man, By Peter Mandelson (independent.co.uk)
- Tony Blair faces Leveson Inquiry (thisislondon.co.uk)
- Answers all depend on how they are interpreted (nzherald.co.nz)