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EDITIONS
Friday, 9 February, 2001, 14:22 GMT
Mandelson: Life goes on
Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson: Business as usual
Former cabinet minister Peter Mandelson has likened his fall from grace to a "ghastly car accident".

But the former Northern Ireland secretary said he would not make public his version of the events surrounding his resignation until the Hammond inquiry is released.


I keep my views to myself in public on what happened

Peter Mandelson
The independent report into the Hinduja passport affair, chaired by Sir Anthony Hammond, is due in the next few weeks.

In his first radio interview since he resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet for the second time, Mr Mandelson underlined his determination to contest his Hartlepool seat at the next election.

He also strongly denied press speculation that he wishes to begin a new political career as a European Commissioner.

Stepping out of the wreckage

Mr Mandelson told BBC Radio Cleveland: "These things just happen completely out of the blue in politics and politics is like that.

"Life goes on and it's like suddenly finding yourself in a ghastly road accident in which your car is written off and which you step from the wreckage and continue your life."

Describing the day of his resignation he spoke of mistakes being made adding: "You don't know how the accident happened, probably it was a combination of different factors and mistakes, including your own."

Media distracted

But speculation over the political future of one of New Labour's key players has distracted much press attention from Thursday's speech by the prime minister, in which he laid out Labour's vision for a second term in office.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has dismissed the media interest over the ins and outs of Mr Mandelson's resignation, saying: "It's all the froth of politics. It doesn't mean a damn."

He told the BBC on Friday: "It is the next steps of this government that people are concerned with, not the next steps of Peter Mandelson."

Arthur Scargill
Arthur Scargill is challenging Mandelson in Hartlepool
In his BBC interview Mr Mandelson gave his backing to Mr Prescott's remarks, saying the party is "getting ready for a general election".

Turning to the Hammond inquiry, Mr Mandelson pledged his co-operation.

He said: "I keep my views to myself in public on what happened. Others can speculate and of course they all do so but my public views will be kept for the investigation."

Election battle

Looking ahead to an election fight with the miners' leader Arthur Scargill, who has pledged to stand in Hartlepool, Mr Mandelson expressed confidence.

Local people would, he said, have a choice between himself and "a man who singled handedly wrecked the British coal industry".

And it emerged on Friday that Mr Mandelson has been given a boost in his campaign for re-election when his trade union said it will be standing by him.

The GMB general workers union spokesman said: "Peter is a Labour MP and a GMB member and we will be fully supporting him in his campaign at the next election."

The message of support came as Independent MP Martin Bell said he would not stand against the MP despite being asked to do so by members of the public.

Camera controversy

On Thursday night the former cabinet member was involved in a controversy after a BBC TV cameraman fell to the ground as Mr Mandelson and his security entourage swept through a group of reporters.

BBC cameraman Peter Thompson, 33, said Mr Mandelson pushed him over a stone wall onto a grass verge as he and his entourage arrived at St Hilda's church in Hartlepool.

Then on Friday, as Mr Mandelson was due to give an award to Hartlepool United manager Chris Turner, a second cameraman went sprawling.

On this occasion the former secretary of state was several feet away.

'I didn't touch him'

Mr Mandelson instantly turned and joked: "You see, I didn't touch him".

Presenting Mr Turner with his third division manager of the month award he then compared his political fortunes with the fortunes of the football club.

"This year the club have had four wins and two draws in seven matches. I haven't been quite so lucky."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti
"He was clearly attempting to woo voters"
The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"It was a frustrating day for all concerned"
Former Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Mandelson
Speaking on BBC Radio Cleveland

AUDIO/VIDEO AUDIO/VIDEO
Former NI Secretary Peter MandelsonPassport row
Mandelson talks to the BBC about his future
AUDIO/VIDEO  real 14k
BBC News Online's special report on the passport for favours affair

Key stories

Inquiry report

Analysis

The players

VIDEO
See also:

08 Feb 01 | UK Politics
05 Feb 01 | UK Politics
02 Feb 01 | UK Politics
04 Feb 01 | UK Politics
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