Mandelson owns Gordon Brown to a degree greater than any influence he ever had over Tony Blair. He is in a sense now more powerful than the Prime Minister, for Gordon Brown’s job is at his disposal. The only reason Mandelson has not taken the title of ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ is because Harriet Harman would have resigned if he did, since that title was, much to her annoyance, denied to her. The last thing Gordon needs is another W.A.G. (Woman Against Gordon). So the great intriguer now has the title First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Council, the Baron Mandelson, of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham.
He saved Gordon on Thursday night by calling Blairites who were thinking of jumping and cajoling them into staying and publicly supporting Gordon Brown, even though in private they despair of the Prime Mentalist.
Mandelson knows Gordon is not up to the job, knows that he is not even half as good as Tony Blair, knows that he is a weak, dithering and now broken man. Look at Gordon’s face and you see a man racked with psychological pain, his face betraying his failure. The Lobby is dismayed that Gordon dares to blatantly lie to them when claiming to possess high moral purpose. The worst thing about Gordon’s lying are the lies he tells himself.
All this serves Mandelson’s purposes, for it means that he himself can govern just as a cunning old regent controls a young prince. The strength of Mandelson’s position as effectively the surviving Blairite ringmaster means that if he holds the Blairites on the leash, Brown survives, if he unleashes them, Brown falls. That power has seduced Mandelson, he has always dreamed that one day he would be able to say “l‘État c’est Moi”. Now he has engineered himself into a positon where he can say “le premier secrétaire d’État, c’est moi”…