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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 19:00 GMT
Mandelson: A busy six weeks
Peter Mandelson in Hartlepool
Mr Mandelson has remained in the headlines
The Hammond inquiry is being published almost six weeks since Peter Mandelson stood in Downing Street to announce his second resignation from Tony Blair's cabinet.

The former Northern Ireland secretary's decision followed days of media speculation about his role in the successful passport application of Srichand Hinduja, the Indian tycoon and Millennium Dome benefactor.

I want to be a parliamentarian rather than a minister

Peter Mandelson
Mr Mandelson's departure from the cabinet was never going to be a story that would quickly run its course and then fall off the front pages - not least because the Hartlepool MP himself appeared determined to keep the affair in the headlines.

Key to Mr Mandelson's activities since his resignation has been his often repeated assertion that he did nothing wrong.

Within hours of quitting Mr Mandelson had telephoned the editor of the Hartlepool Mail to tell him he had no intention of stepping down as the constituency MP.

Days later he had written an article for The Sunday Times giving his version of the events surrounding his resignation and pledging to clear his name. The article was widely criticised and was accused of raising more questions than it answered.

Then Mr Mandelson hired a firm of top city lawyers to represent him at Sir Anthony Hammond's inquiry, reportedly to ensure it was "fair and objective".

'Clear his name'

After a short break, he returned vowing once again to clear his name.

He toured newspaper offices on Thursday 8 February briefing editors on why he believed he would be vindicated by the inquiry.

However, his "briefings" backfired when the following day's newspapers included frontpage reports that Mr Mandelson was interested in becoming a European commissioner.

On the same day, he was interviewed on BBC Radio Cleveland. He told listeners he had no interest in an EU job.

"You're joking? You're not saying the Press are speculating about that along with a whole number of things about me, day in day out? I can't believe it,'' he said.

He also likened his experience of resigning from the cabinet to "a ghastly road accident" ensuring further headlines.

That evening, his visit to a church in Hartlepool was met by a throng of journalists and cameraman and resulted in yet more media coverage - although not the coverage Mr Mandelson might have wished.

He was accused of pushing a TV cameraman as he entered the church. His spokesman said the man "fell over a gravestone".

Sir Anthony Hammond
Sir Anthony's inquiry took six weeks

Mr Mandelson presented his side of the story to Sir Anthony Hammond on Monday 13 February but declined to comment on what he had said.

By the end of that week, he was in the headlines once again this time for donating 10,000 - fees paid by newspapers for his articles on the Hinduja affair - to a trust that is seeking to bring the alleged perpetrators of the Omagh Bomb to court in a civil action.

Mr Mandelson's decision to maintain a high profile while the inquiry was underway was emphasised when he rose in the Commons to ask a question of Dr John Reid, the new Northern Ireland secretary in his first question time.

Widely criticised

The Labour leadership was reported to be angry about the Hartlepool MP's campaign to clear his name fearing it would damage the party.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was said to have reflected the anger felt by the Labour high command when he dismissed stories about Mr Mandelson as "the froth of politics", saying people were not concerned with "the next steps of Peter Mandelson".

Leaks of the Hammond report, which indicate that Mr Mandelson will be cleared of lying, have led to speculation that the Hartlepool MP would seek a public apology from Home Secretary Jack Straw and possibly others involved in his departure.

Mr Straw is thought to have sealed his colleague's fate by telling the prime minister that he had told the former Northern Ireland secretary the "correct" version of events just days before he denied any involvement in the passport application.

Future career

Nevertheless, Mr Mandelson has consistently stated that he now has no intention of returning to frontline politics although he is adamant that he wishes to remain MP for Hartlepool.

Some newspapers have speculated that Mr Mandelson will use the findings of Sir Anthony's report to support a political comeback of one kind or another.

But addressing his local party organisation on 25 February, the former minister was adamant about his future.

He said: "I want to be a parliamentarian rather than a minister, a good constituency MP and someone who continues to serve the country from that base and no other."

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See also:

25 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson: 'I won't return to cabinet'
28 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson urges Omagh bomb justice
13 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson gives passport evidence
09 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson denies EC post reports
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