The Dutiful Peter Mandelson

Today’s Andrew Marr interview with Peter Mandelson is one that will be studied for many years by political hacks and politicos alike.

For politicians it was textbook example of how to engage and handle hostile interviews.

For political journalists, a salutory lesson that the Paxman approach (“Why is this lying bastard lying to me”) can generate a little heat but no light whatsoever. Even worse, it can also make you look profoundly stupid.

It was quite clear as the interview went on, that Marr was becoming increasingly frustrated by Mandelson’s knack of holding hacks to account.

Most political interviewees are behoven to what’s in the morning papers. John Humphreys is a classic example. He asks ministers for responses to these stories because he believe that is the news – especially if it’s the Daily Mail splash. But because John’s not-fact checked or stood up the story himself, he looks to the poltician to give it validity. If they deny the story then the denial becomes the story which is then carried by rolling networks and picked up by the follwing day’s papers. Speculation becomes confirmation. And on and on it goes.

So when Marr claimed that Hazel Blears criticised the PM in her resignation letter, Mandelson was on him like a shot. What was the quote? Can you quote the exact words, Andrew?

Marr of course, couldn’t and you could see it really hurt him. It led the interviewer to lose control of the interview as he became tetchier and tetchier.

But Marr losing it could have led to a really big missed opportunity. At the very end, Mandelson was asked about Part-Privatisation of the Post Office. His response wasn’t anything new but it seemed he was going to say something only for Marr to jump in and talk about constitutional reform.

You can actually see Mandleson’s exaperation at not being able to finish his sentence. I read it as a professional frustration from a former political TV producer who could see the interviewer was missing a great opportunity.

What did he want to add? Thanks to Marr, we won’t know.

Sadly the Paxman approach is the end result of the media reducing the politicial debate to confrontation and consternation. David Frost was a far better interviewer because he left those spaces, he made the interviewees drop their guard and just as importantly, he listened.

I know the party has been suspicious of Peter over the years (and we’ve had good reason to be.) But his conduct in the last week and today’s performance completely justifies Brown’s decision to bring him back.

His grand father Herbert Morrisson was 57 when he became Deputy Prime Minister. Becoming First Secretary of State – DPM in all but name – Peter beats him by two years.

And there are parallels.  Attlee wasn’t the best communicator but built a remarkable post-war settlement. Gordon won’t win a Bafta, but he’s leading us through the worst recession in modern times.

Every PM needs a loyal No2 to ride shotgun and explain the policies.

Today the Dutiful Peter Mandelson eloquently defended his leader, strongly reprimanded the rebels and gave Marr both barrells.

Tony Blair always said that his job would only be complete when the party learnt to love Peter.

How ironic that under Gordon, TB’s work might finally by done.


One comment

  1. phurn

    Im sorry but you couldnt be more wrong. Brown isnt leading us through the recession, hes like a blingman in a dodge ’em car bouncing from wall to wall, we have no clear direction… just aimlessly bouncing down the path to oblivion, any comparison ot atlee is wholy undeserved and please dont get me started on mandy.

    ive never met such a dangerous bent politician, here we have a man whos only purpose seems to be to bring britain to its knees, aside from his known dodgy dealings which have seen him leave twice in disgrace we now have him harpingon about how nissans electric car can save the world, yet with LDV he had a van maker with plans and prototypes of working electric vans with a usefull battery life yet he chose to let it hit the wall. The fact is mandy is the enemy of a traditional labour voter, ifhe was to attend any meetings down his local labour club he’d hate everything that was said, he’d hate the people in it, what they stand for hell I’d even bet he wouldnt want them contributing to the party funds.

    I honestly think mandy only accepted this job in order to force the lisbon treaty through and is simply using brown as a puppet to do so and once his job is done he will turn around and flee probably taking a job with *president* blair.

    This government has completely destroyed democracy in britain. Here we are with an unelected PM picking out unelected lords to form his unelected cabinet, borrowing to the point that britains credit rating is almost certainatly going to be dropped meanignthat once we are out of the recession ( no thanks to any of these) we’re still going to be suffering due to the collossal amount of debt we have to repay. But thats ok, im sure we’ll all love the extra tax we’ll have to pay hell why not just give them the lot, they’ll get most of it one way or the other anyway.

    I never would ahvevoted for a new labour government anyway but lest we all forget the antisematic filth they spouted at the last election. Micheal howard edited as a pig, and even worse shylock. discusting behavior from a discusting party who no right thinking man could ever excuse or vote for.

    God save us all the day war criminal Blair rules the EU.

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