Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Peter Mandelson’s ‘The Third Man’

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 23rd July, 2010

One of the most surprising things about Peter Mandelson’s account of the rise and fall of New Labour — and his relationships with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown — is that it has appeared so soon after New Labour’s demise (The Third Man, HarperPress, 25 pounds). Obviously, most of it must have been written before the May 2010 election with an eye to publication before anyone else could get their oar in (including Tony Blair, whose messainically titled memoir, The Journey, is still a while off). Certainly, Mandelson has put the cat amongst the pigeons — some might say he is the cat himself — souring the atmosphere during the Labour leadership contest and making sure he had made his mark before the party’s autumn conference. Much of the book is based on diaries and notes taken at the time of various meetings and conversations. It now seems to be de rigueur for British politicians to prepare for their future books while still in office (and theereby feather their future nests as well).

Mandelson is no Roy Jenkins, though his book is as long as Jenkins’ Diaries. Yet some parts — not least the section on Brussels — are brief and superficial. What is rivetting, though, is the relentless detail of the hostility between Blair and Brown and the psychological flaws in Brown’s make-up. Mandelson was treated pretty badly by both Prime Ministers, yet always he went crawling back like a dog that has been kicked by its master but who craves a pat from him.

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