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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Profile: Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson has sealed his reputation as the "comeback king" of British politics with his appointment to one of the most powerful jobs in the European Union.

Peter Mandelson
Mandelson: A fighter not a quitter
As EU Trade Commissioner Mr Mandelson will have to set aside national interests - and the corridors of Westminster - to represent all 25 EU nations in trade negotiations around the world.

The appointment represents a second return from the political wilderness for Mr Mandelson, who will give up his Hartlepool parliamentary seat and move to Brussels.

It is another dramatic twist in a career that has never been short of drama or intrigue.

One of the most memorable moments in the otherwise terminally dull 2001 general election was Mr Mandelson's victory speech.

In an extraordinary, emotionally-charged performance, the twice-disgraced Hartlepool MP declared at a post-poll rally: "I'm a fighter, not a quitter."

The shouted display of defiance produced a variety of responses veering from solidarity to hilarity.

Some even wondered, uncharitably, if the former minister, whose career had twice been dashed on the rocks of sleaze, had finally lost his grip. Clearly not, he really meant it.

And ever since that day, and despite continuing high-level opposition right across the Labour Party, he has quietly worked behind the scenes for another resurrection - while publicly declaring he had no such ambitions.

Formidable record

For many, of course, his greatest successes were already long behind him.

He had already won himself a place in the history books as the man who - along with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - consigned the Labour Party to the dustbin of history and created New Labour.

That in itself was a pretty formidable record. Unfortunately, the tactics he used - a mixture of spin, bullying and manipulation - won him as many enemies as friends both within the Labour party and the media.

Peter Mandelson's old home
The house that brought him down
His greatest pal, Tony Blair, even accepted his friend was widely disliked within the party by once declaring his job would only be done when Labour had learned to love Peter.

That may have been a lost cause and even Mr Mandelson has since accepted that he probably made too many enemies at this time.

But what astonished even those who despised him was the nature of his demise. No one expected him to be that careless or un-disciplined in his personal dealings.

Loony left

The "Prince of Darkness" was born on 21 October 1953 into the Labour aristocracy - his grandfather was Labour cabinet minister Herbert Morrison.

But he rebelled and joined the Young Communist League after Labour supported the United States' intervention in Vietnam.

His rapid return from the far left began when he won a place at St Catherine's College, Oxford.

He started on the road to party politics through a job at the economics department of the Trades Union Congress and from there joined Lambeth council in south London, from 1979 to 1982, during its "loony left" days.

Peter Mandelson outside 10 Downing Street
Mandelson: Colourful career
Mr Mandelson moved on to become a producer for London Weekend Television, from 1982 to 1985, working on political commentator Brian Walden's programme.

It was there that he befriended John Birt, later to become BBC Director General.

He left to take up the role of Labour's director of communications, but his real ambition was a place in Parliament.

Natural successor

He resigned in 1990 to contest the Hartlepool seat, which he won in 1992.

Within two years, he was being seen as the kingmaker who thrust Tony Blair into the leadership in 1994 after the sudden death of John Smith.

This came at a time when everyone thought Gordon Brown was the heir apparent. Mr Mandelson sniffed the political wind and changed horses at the last moment.

Brown is thought never to have forgiven Mr Mandelson for this even though the ex-minister has recently said he believes the Chancellor is Mr Blair's natural successor.

Mo Mowlam, ex- NI secretary
Mowlam was ousted from Northern Ireland
After the 1997 election, he was swiftly rewarded with the job as minister without portfolio, a trouble-shooting role with responsibility for the Millennium Dome, whose contents, he promised would "blow your socks off".

Long before the Dome's doomed opening, he was made Trade Secretary in 1998 but was forced to quit on 23 December 1998 after The Guardian newspaper printed details from a book by Paul Routledge of a secret loan of 373,000 from his ministerial colleague Geoffrey Robinson.

The money was used to buy an expensive house in Notting Hill in London.

Owed him

Mr Mandelson had been in the post for barely six months.

But in a move that shocked many in Westminster, Tony Blair brought him back on 11 October 1999, as Northern Ireland Secretary, taking over from Mo Mowlam.

He was said to have been a successful minister even though he failed to dispel his reputation as an arch manipulator.

And he was forced to quit a second time in January 2001 over allegations of misconduct over a passport application for Dome supporters, the Hinduja brothers.

This was seen as terminal even though inquiries later cleared him of any wrongdoing.

And Tony Blair has always appeared to retain a genuine affection for and need of him.

Slick operator

The prime minister was even reportedly planning to bring his old friend back into the cabinet, but was forced to drop the idea after stronger than expected opposition from Mr Brown and John Prescott.

In this context, the Brussels job may be seen by Mr Mandelson as a consolation prize and he is reported to have agonized over whether to take it.

There are people in Westminster already taking bets on how long he can stay out of trouble in his new role.

On news of his appointment, bookmakers William Hill were offering odds of 3/1 that he will not serve his full five year term as Britain's EU Commissioner.

But by bringing him back from the political wilderness for a second time, Mr Blair has demonstrated his enduring faith in Mr Mandelson's abilities.

Even his sternest critics accept he is a slick political operator and a good networker - both skills that should come in useful in the smoke-filled rooms of Brussels.

And - as Mr Mandelson was quick to point out - he will be only a two hour train ride away from Downing Street.




SEE ALSO:
Mandelson gives backing to Brown
04 Jul 04 |  Politics
Mandelson reveals Blair's pain
30 Apr 03 |  Politics


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