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Peter Mandelson
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Peter Mandelson



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Peter Mandelson

Peter Mandelson arrived as Secretary of State after 10 months in the political wilderness following his first resignation from the Blair government.

Despite his chequered past, all the parties gave him, at least, a cautious welcome – partly because his appointment signalled how seriously Prime Minister Blair took completing the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

But the unionists also welcomed him because he meant the removal of Mo Mowlam from the post.

Dr Mowlam's direct style displeased many unionist politicians. Many accused her of being a closet nationalist, others spoke publicly of deliberate attempts to circumvent her and deal directly with Downing Street.

Mr Mandelson’s appointment did appear to help break the deadlock over establishing the assembly – though, as usual, the exact sequence of events which led to the momentuous events of November 1999 were far complicated behind the scenes.

Things did not go swimmingly from that point onwards. Mr Mandelson was forced to reimpose direct rule in the New Year after a Ulster Unionist deadline for the start of IRA decommissioning was, as many observers predicted, blatantly ignored.

For his part, Mr Mandelson appeared to have counselled against Mr Trimble’s threat to walk out of the assembly, apparently agreeing with moderate nationalist opinion that deadlines imposed because of internal UUP divisions were the last thing that republicans would respond to.

Nevertheless, Mr Mandelson did pull off a historic return of the power-sharing assembly in May 2000 when he helped the parties and the two governments broker a deal over how the rest of the agreement would be implemented.

Seasoned Mandelson-watchers predicted at the time that this deal would be his most difficult political tightrope yet - and it proved to be as he became embroiled in the controversy over policing reform, inevitably pleasing no one with the compromise that was passed through Parliament.

In January 2001 all the parties to the Good Friday Agreement were inching towards a momentous final deal which speculation suggested would include measures to tackle outstanding policing and security issues - and an actual decommissioning of some IRA weapons.

And then, it all fell apart for Mr Mandelson in one of the most dramatic events of the first Blair government.

Back in London, Mr Mandelson faced new media questioning over his role in a passport application by a controversial Indian businessman - and he resigned within days, his political career in ruins. John Reid was drafted in to the Northern Ireland Office.

The final deal never came off, though that was probably more to do with political positioning ahead of the impending general election than Mr Mandelson’s defenestration from government.

Long Labour career

Mr Mandelson, grandson of the wartime Labour cabinet minister Herbert Morrison, began his political career proper through a job at the economics department of the TUC and from there joined Lambeth council as Lady Thatcher came to power in 1979.

But his political star started to rise when he became Labour's director of communications from 1985 to 1990 under the then leader Neil Kinnock.

He encouraged the party to take on a more professional media presentation and dumped the old style red flag symbol in favour of a red rose.

After Labour's landslide victory in 1997, Mr Mandelson was one of Prime Minister Tony Blair's closest advisers. He served as minister without portfolio and then entered the cabinet as Trade and Industry Secretary before his first resignation.

That came when the Guardian newspaper revealed details of a secret £373,000 home loan between him and the paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson, who also resigned.



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