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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 18:06 GMT
What next for Mandelson?
Peter Mandelson announcing his resignation
Peter Mandelson may have resigned. But he's still doing what he does best - keeping Westminster guessing.

The question now being asked by MPs is what will he do next?

Mr Mandelson said in his resignation statement that he wanted to "lead a more normal life, both in politics and in the future outside".

So, how long will he continue in politics?

Pivotal

In the short term, Mr Mandelson was due to play a pivotal role in Mr Blair's re-election campaign.

No more red boxes for Peter Mandelson now
Now, he is expected to be kept behind the scenes.

And there is speculation as to whether he will even seek re-election in his Hartlepool constituency at the general election expected in May.

Keith Fisher, president of the Hartlepool constituency Labour party, said Mr Mandelson still had his backing.

He said: "I expect him to stand at the next election."

Doubts

But others have their doubts. Few MPs expect that the former cabinet minister would enjoy returning to the back benches for a second time.

Many think it more likely that he will stand down from Parliament and seek another career - perhaps in high-level political lobbying or in a return to the media.

Mr Mandelson must have one of the world's most valuable contacts books, having rubbed shoulders over the years with the rich and famous all over the world.

Indeed, it was just those contacts which drew so much criticism from the left of the Labour Party.

Valuable links

Now, perhaps, those links will prove more valuable than ever.

Mr Mandelson worked as a television producer in the past - and is said by some in the media to know more about the inner workings of the industry than many of those actually employed in it.

Then again, he would be a prize catch for a political lobby firm, with his intimate knowledge of where the political bodies are buried in Westminster and Whitehall.

Some political wags have suggested he might branch out from television into the general entertainment industry.

Entertainment

They point to his work on the early stages of the Millennium Dome and recall that when he was asked what the attractions would include, he unveiled a revolutionary game called "surf ball".

This caused much scratching of heads at the time - and was, in the event, never heard of again.

But Mr Mandelson might decide simply to stay at home in his new, more modest flat in Notting Hill in London and do what all modern political figures do when it's time to say farewell: write a blockbuster of a book.

Millions

The former US first lady, Hillary Clinton, has apparently been offered millions for the story of her life in the White House with Bill.

And at Westminster, MPs are waiting for the memoirs of, among others, Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam and the former Commons speaker, Betty Boothroyd.

Any hint that Mr Mandelson might be interested in revealing all would trigger perhaps the most frenzied bidding war in modern British publishing history.

And, say his critics, the vast sums he would receive would enable him to continue his glittering life among those seen as contributing to his downfall - the rich and the famous.

Peter Mandelson is at the centre of a row over passport applications

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