Sunday, 5 October 2008

Reshuffle (1): Peter Mandelson

To the avalanche of comment over the past 48 hours, I add just two short points.

(1) I think many observers haven't taken account of the fact that Mandelson has been in a very high-powered job for the past few years. This is no doubt largely because the insular and ignorant hacks in this country don't understand anything about the EU and its institutions.  Some people still imagine that the Commission is a sinecure, and merely a graveyard for failed domestic politicians. Having worked there myself, I know that that is nonsense.

The job of Trade Commissioner, in particular, is extremely powerful because trade is one of very few policy areas where the Commission has a wide remit to negotiate binding agreements on behalf of the EU as a whole. And the fact is, Mandelson is regarded as having been pretty good at it.

So, whatever we think about the man and his politics, he comes back into British government a much more substantial figure than when he left.

(2) I was surprised to see it suggested in yesterday's Telegraph that one reason for Mandelson's undoubted unpopularity in the country at large is his "feline manner and his homosexuality". Surely his being gay is not relevant. Nobody minds that Alan Duncan is gay. Nobody minded that Chris Smith is gay. Surely in 2008 we have left all that behind. The reason people don't like Mandelson is that he comes across as very devious, which I'm pretty sure he is. (Mind you, so is Gordon Brown, so now they can be devious together.)

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