BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Mandelson on his communist days

Perhaps it was the late hour, the saloon bar atmosphere and the comfortable chairs - for here was Peter Mandelson going off message.

Once seen as Labour's high disciplinarian, Mandelson looked positively relaxed as he opened up at the Institute of Public Policy Research's (IPPR) fringe meeting.

Interviewed by writer and broadcaster David Aaronovitch, the former Northern Ireland Secretary even felt free to joke about his relationship with Tony Blair.

Mandelson's one-time, if brief membership of the Young Communists is well-known but only now has he publicly revealed his motives for joining.

Selling slogan

"I went into it for social reasons," he said. "I won't go into it because I don't want to spoil the advance on my memoirs."

Pressed further, he continued: "I followed someone in - I just thought love would blossom!"

Peter Mandelson
Mandelson was put into shock by his resignation
This Communist era also saw the young Mandelson selling Morning Star, but what was his selling slogan outside Kilburn Tube station?

"I used to shout 'Come and get it'," he joked, before admitting his rallying cry was in fact the more mundane "Morning Star, daily paper of the workers".

Control freak?

The former spin doctor conceded the Communists might have taught him something about party discipline.

And he gave a humorous defence of control freakery when he was at Labour's headquarters.

I have survived, I am tenacious and that I shall remain

Peter Mandelson
"At least, we used to be in control - if we were just freaks, where would we have got to?"

The fringe meeting saw Mandelson also recall his time as a Lambeth councillor, whose leader "Red" Ted Knight's attitude was "No compromise with the electorate!"

Taking flak

But moving to later history, he was asked about the differences between himself and Tony Blair.

"He got all of the credit and I got all of the flak," he joked.

Mandelson said he was "tribal Labour" adding tongue-in-cheek: "Forget all this New Labour ****!" before laughing that this comment was off-the-record.

"I was born into the Labour Party, it was like our church, it was like a religion in our house."

Moral basis

Blair instead was "tribal Fettes College and tribal would be rock star, definitely tribal Christian".

"He had a strong beliefs, that moral basis for politics," he explained.

The prime minister was in fact all the more powerful and interesting for not being born into the Labour Party, Mandelson suggested.

The interview saw Mandelson winning over his audience mostly with these tongue-in-cheek controversial comments.


But he was far from joking as he spoke with frankly about his ejection from government after newspaper "lies" about the Hinduja passports row.

That experience had taken him into a "state of extreme and utter shock" as he was "written off", he said in an emotionally intense few minutes.

A sense of injustice clearly motivated what many saw as an extraordinary election night speech from Mandelson in Hartlepool.

That speech was not meant to be ungracious but was a "mixture of defiance, relief and pain" and a message to his constituency supporters.

But was politics too rough a trade for him, asked Aaronavitch?

The ex-minister pointed to what he had gone through during Labour's 1980s years of turmoil.

"I have survived. I am tenacious and that I shall remain."

Key stories





E-mail this story to a friend

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |