I’m at the TUC HQ and the Annual Conference of "Progress" – speaking later on a
panel with Hazel Blears about the Conservative party. These are
highlights from a captivating and often amusing interview just given by Lord Mandelson to The
Guardian’s Martin Kettle. Paraphrasing, not verbatim unless in quotation marks:
Being Lord Mandelson: It’s a
rejuvenating thing being in the Lords. Everyone else is a little older!
The Lords are seriously-informed, very clever and unwilling to give up
their line of questioning until they have an answer. I’m "conservative"
about Lords reform. I respect it as it is and don’t want it to rival
Being "happier": I hadn’t expected to
return to UK politics. I’d expected to earn my living after Brussels
and enjoy myself. Perhaps "a little boating"! I’m happier now in
Government than last time. I feel more relaxed with my colleagues. They
are less suspicious of me. Less jealous than when I was "Tony Blair’s
guy". People made ridiculous assumptions about my influence [pause] "…by and large"!
‘Me and Brown’: "We had a famously
difficult relationship". I’ve rediscovered in Gordon in what I saw
originally. His big brain. His prodigious work ethic. His sense of
humour "which has been well hidden from me for the last ten years!"
We’ve begun again.
I’m more Heseltine than Benn: Who
would have thought in 1997 that we would have to take majority stakes
in some banks? But "needs must". Asked about news reports that he is
drawing up a list of businesses that are essential to the wealth
creating future he answered that he wanted to be more like Michael
Heseltine, less like Tony Benn, in wanting to intervene before
breakfast, lunch and dinner in the interests of British business.
Thinking is preliminary.
Next steps for Labour: We have a real challenge at the next election to show that we haven’t
run out of steam. New policy ideas and a doubling of energy are
essential. Three priorities are education, innovation and readiness for
In response to questions:
The Euro: Europe is our domestic market and our currency belongs in the euro. Within the currency we’ll eliminate transaction costs and be part of the monetary policy decisions that so affect us. But there is enough to occupy us for the next year or two so immediate discussion of membership is off the agenda.
Obama is New Labour: His campaign was characterised by competence, dignity, ideas and enthusiasm. Nothing backward-looking. Nothing secretarian. Not imprisoned by old ideologies. Those are all old New Labour qualities.
How to beat the Conservatives: The Tories have reverted to the one club policies of the 1980s. The Conservative Party has become more laissez-faire again, not so interventionist – precisely at the wrong time. The Tories are stuck where Labour was circa 1997 believing that policies can be put on the back of a pledge card. The times are much complex today. Labour shouldn’t bash the Tories but leave them behind in policy thinking and innovation.