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Tuesday, June 29, 1999 Published at 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK

UK Politics

Mandelson's comeback trail

Peter Mandelson's comeback appears on course

By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder

Peter Mandelson's comeback campaign is, apparently, going from strength to strength.

The disgraced former minister - who was forced to quit after admitting he had accepted a secret £373,000 home loan from a ministerial colleague - is set to emerge back into the daylight with a keynote speech at a union conference in Jersey.

His appearance follows a number of more low-profile performances recently, which have been seen as part of a careful campaign to rehabilitate him.

Most of his speeches have had one thing in common: the euro. And that has led to mounting speculation that the prime minister wants him to lead the battle to win voters' hearts and minds behind the single currency project.

He is expected to tell the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union's annual conference that Britain should be playing a major part in Europe.

He will warn of the potential dangers to jobs and industry if Britain stands outside of Europe and, by implication, will suggest that it would be right to join the euro as soon as the economic conditions allow.

July reshuffle

There have been persistent rumours that the ex-trade minister is on his way back into the Cabinet in the government reshuffle, pencilled in for the end of July.

Even his many enemies appear to believe that, if he fails to win back a Cabinet post, he will at least be given another senior job, such as heading the pro-European campaign.

But there are many Labour MPs who would be infuriated by such a move, and deputy prime minister John Prescott is likely to go into orbit if he is asked to sit alongside Mr Mandelson on the Cabinet table in Downing Street.

But it has become increasingly clear that the prime minister is still relying heavily on Mr Mandelson's advice and dearly wants him back at his side.

What is baffling many, however, is the idea that Mr Mandelson should be used as the lead figure in the country-wide campaign to persuade Britain to back the euro.

No-one would deny that Mr Mandelson is a formidable campaigner and back room boy, but he proved far less successful when in the public eye.

It was also generally accepted that when he was finally thrust into the spotlight as a minister, he failed to endear himself to the general public. His performances in the Commons were also notably lacklustre.

Woo voters

Even more extraordinary to many is the idea that he should be sent out and about to woo back the legions of traditional Labour voters who have failed to turn out to support their party in a series of recent elections.

He is widely viewed amongst the party's rank and file activists as the man who did most to strip Labour of its old ideals and many were delighted to see the back of him.

None of this means Mr Blair will not end Mr Mandelson's brief period in exile and bring him back to the centre of power.

But it could suggest that he will return the ex-minister to a more shadowy role, presiding over but taking no public part in the pre-general election campaign.

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