Thursday, December 24, 1998 Published at 12:32 GMT
Test yourself: Are you as exotic as Mandelson?
Whatever he's got, bottle it
Peter Mandelson, the former Trade and Industry Secretary, said the media was interested in him because he was a "publicity friendly, controversial, fairly exotic" personality.
This description of himself has inspired a raft of press comment, for while Mr Mandelson's Notting Hill lifestyle means he rubs shoulders with lots of glitzy showbiz types, the world of politics is seldom thought of as outlandish or stylish.
Clearly exoticism is in the eye of the beholder, which begs the question: How exotic are you? Answer these questions to judge yourself against Mr Mandelson.
Question 1 What do you order when you go into the local chip shop?
B. A Pukka pie and can of pop.
C. Chips with pickled egg.
D. Chips with what you identify as avocado dip, but which actually turns out to be mushy peas.
Answer: Probably not D, although the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock did recount a similar mushy peas incident about Mandelson at his leaving party when he resigned as Labour's director of communications. It is an apocryphal tale.
Question 2 Looking back into your childhood, how did you like to spend your spare time?
A. At a local church youth club.
Answer: It's C. Mandelson inherited his youthful idealism from his true red forebears (his grandfather Herbert Morrison was home secretary in the 1945 Labour government). It has not completely deserted him, as his comment that it would be "gut-wrenching" if General Pinochet were immune from prosecution showed.
Question 3 You fancy a new suit. Do you:
A. Pop into Hartlepool and look for a simple polyester mix offering from Burton's, with a budget of £150?
Answer: C. As well as a penchant for Paul Smith tailoring, Mr Mandelson likes to sport a natty Boateng number, as do other exotics such as Robbie Williams, Mariella Frostrup and George Michael.
Question 4 Your pad could do with a lick of paint. What do you do?
A. Get a local handyman to give it the once-over, with a budget of a couple of hundred pounds.
Answer: D. Stein is a protégé of famed architects Lord Rogers and Sir Norman Foster, and is fast winning a reputation among the architectural elite.
Question 5 What style do you eventually plump for?
B. Harsh cold minimalism, removing original fireplaces and cornices, adding gleaming stainless steel work surfaces.
C. Down-to-earth suburban with cluttered living room and net curtains.
D. Grand London townhouse complete with chandeliers, gilded picture frames, and hand printed wallpaper.
Answer: B. The minimalism option. Although his former Cabinet colleague Lord Irvine preferred to indulge his exotic tastes with Pugin-print wallpaper at £300 a roll. However, in Mandelson's Hartlepool home it's a different story, with net curtains and the emphasis on comfort.
Question 6 After a tiring day in the office, you slump in front of the television for a relaxing night. What sort of chair do you "veg out" in?
B. A plywood and leather chair with matching footstall.
C. A trendy Tullsta chair from Ikea.
Answer: B. Mandelson was photographed by Lord Snowdon reclining in his classic Eames chair, valued at £1,800. He's probably happy to let the Tories, which decked out this year's conference platform in stripped-down Swedish style, have the Ikea chairs.
Question 7 And when you're watching the box, who are your favourite personalities on it?
A. Frasier and Niles Crane, the ever-so-exotic psychiatrist brothers in Channel Four's Frasier.
Answer: Although A and B are likely candidates, Mandelson got on very well with former Carry On queen Babs Windsor at a Labour gala dinner, when he joked about the possibility of appearing in the soap opera to promote the Millennium Dome. "Peter is a big fan of the BBC soaps," an aide said. He is good friends with Ross Kemp, who plays Albert Square's Grant Mitchell.
Question 8 Keeping your svelte figure trim can be hard work. Do you:
A. Flick on the Jane Fonda video and practise a few sit ups on the lounge floor?
Answer: D. Although a work out at the YMCA did the trick when Mandelson first became a face at Westminster. His climb up the social ladder means he now choses to sweat it out at Lambton Place.
Question 9 You're up for a night out. Do you:
A. "Large it" at the Ministry of Sound nightclub?
Answer: A. Mandelson is famed for his energetic dancing particularly at the south London nightspot. He once said in an interview. "I can dance to almost anything." He counts the club owner James Palumbo among his friends and once enjoyed the benefit of a Silver Rover, complete with chauffer, which was given to the Labour party by the club.
Question 10 When it comes to the morning routine, what are your next moves after climbing out of bed?
A. Nip down to the local newsagent for a pint of semi-skimmed and a few daily papers.
De-briefing If you scored:
1-3: You don't need a spin doctor, you need a spin surgeon.
4-7: You are neither exotic nor unexotic - you have found a Third Way.
8-10: Congratulations, you are truly a sultan of spin. Turn over a new pager.