Mandy for PM?
The problem with this, rather entertaining, piece by Julian Glover imagining Prime Minister Mandelson is not the scenario it charts leading to Brown’s downfall – that’s perfectly foreseeable.
In the last week of August, news hit the City that Standard & Poor's had downgraded Britain's credit rating. Hours later the Treasury announced an auction of £4bn worth of 25-year bonds at 4.5% had failed – dealers dismissed them as a risky punt compared with the security of German or US loans. The chancellor was forced by Downing Street to make a live broadcast dismissing the story as "incomplete and misleading". But when the governor of the Bank of England confirmed his deep alarm about Britain's inability to pay its way, Darling's resignation became inevitable…
He made one last effort to stay on, announcing from Scotland that Balls was to become chancellor and Woodward chief secretary, in charge of spending. The appointments simply added insult to injury. In London, the cabinet gathered to issue a private ultimatum: Brown must go or they would quit – and to everyone's surprise, he folded. He gave a dignified final statement to Sky News, before flying to Harvard with his family. He has not spoken in public since.
I can envisage that, or something like it, happening quite easily. I can even imagine the circumstances whereby Lord Mandelson became Prime Minister after a show of hands in cabinet, although it’s a bigger stretch. What I really can’t imagine is this.
Within days Mandelson had introduced a bill for rapid democratic reform of the Lords. He won support when he persuaded Vince Cable to become his independent chancellor. John Cruddas and James Purnell joined the cabinet; soon after, Mandelson – released from the Lords – fought and narrowly won a byelection to get him back into the Commons.
The general election date was confirmed well in advance: 6 May 2010.
With just months to go, an emergency programme of cuts has given the government an austere sense of purpose – the halving of the Olympic budget, the scrapping of Trident, and withdrawal from Afghanistan are said to be just the start. The Tories have been outflanked. At 34%, their poll rating is now just 1% ahead of Labour.
Vince Cable won’t join the Labour Party. It is not possible to resign a life peerage – and legislative attempts to allow this would take a very long time, as they would have very wide-ranging constitutional moment and be resisted tooth and nail by the opposition, and in the Lords itself. The Labour Party are already riven with enough splits without having Peter Mandelson - who 70% of them loathe - as leader. Not going to happen. Brown will stagger on until next year and then go down to the humiliation he so richly deserves…