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Programme highlights Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 15:35 GMT
What next for Mandelson?
Peter Mandelson resigning on Wednesday
Peter Mandelson will stand again in Hartlepool
Peter Mandelson let it be known that he would not be making himself available for a photo-call this morning.

Instead he slipped away from his ex-official residence in Belfast into what still seems unlikely to be a life of obscurity.

He leaves much uncertainty in his wake, not least over his own immediate future.

Srichand Hinduja
Srichand Hinduja insists he did not ask anyone for favours

Can he really stay away from the election campaign that he was supposed to lead?

Should a disgraced minister be allowed any role in the first place?

Mr Mandelson has pledged to fight the next election in Hartlepool - but will he be content as a backbench MP?

Election role?

One important outstanding issue is what role - if any - Mr Mandelson plays behind the scenes in the election.

Steven Byers this morning told us that the role in the election which it had been thought Peter Mandelson would take, that of organising day to day campaigning, would now not be his.

However, he could not confirm or deny whether Mr Mandelson would carry on advising the Prime Minister in the light of his diminuished status.

Reaction in Hartlepool


He's gone for no particular reason but to save the party again.

Steve Wallace

While the Government tries to carry on as if nothing has happened, Mr Mandelson's colleagues in Hartlepool won't be able to escape some difficult questions about his future as a constituency MP.

His agent, Steve Wallace, says the town is sticking by their man.

But despite that support, other signals from the North-East have been less encouraging.

The Hartlepool Mail

Yesterday's Hartlepool Mail published a string of comments from disgruntled readers under the headline ' We've had enough.'

Today, the Hartlepool Mail is able to boast the first interview with Mr Mandelson after his resignation.


He told me that it wasn't a difficult decision to make.

Harry Blackwood

The paper's editor Harry Blackwood told The World at One that he had a conversation with Mr Mandelson late on Wednesday night during which the former Northern Ireland Secretary emphasized his resilience.

However, Mr Blackwood said that there was some concern about Mr Mandelson's success as an MP:

Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten
LibDem MP Mark Oaten wants a full inquiry
"People have legitimate concerns and have had for some considerable time. The criticism has been that Peter Mandelson has been on this Northern Ireland job which has taken him away from the town and that is understandable."

Hartlepool, then, may still have Peter Mandelson after the election, leading - in his own words - a more normal life, inside and outside politics.

The picture he paints of that more normal life will presumably include far less contact with the rich and famous - like the Hinduja brothers.

Inquiry

Tony Blair has asked Sir Anthony Hammond QC to conduct an inquiry into the successful passport application by Srichand Hinduja - six months after his decision to underwrite the Dome's Faith Zone.

This morning in Delhi, Srichand Hinduja, on whose behalf Peter Mandelson made the call to Mike O'Brien in 1998, denied he had sought political favours for citizenship: "I have not asked anybody to give any favour to me, whether it is Peter Mandelson or anybody else,"


There is no link between the charity to the Dome... or anything to do with the passport.

Srichand Hinduja
The World at One spoke to Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten MP for Winchester, who told us the inquiry must be as broad ranging as possible and should include all the individuals involved - the Hinduja brothers and all the government departments and ministers who might have played a part.

He also stressed that it would be a great error of judgement for the Prime Minister to involve Peter Mandelson in the national election campaign.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Harry Blackwood
"People have legitimate concerns."
Mark Oaten
"I'm glad that there is an inquiry taking place."
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