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Darling and Mandelson show what I mean by authenticity

Posted on 28 September 2009 | 4:09pm

Popped out to buy a few things at lunchtime. Radio on in the first shop. Alan Simpson calling on Gordon to go. A few shops down the street, BBC News Channel. Graham Stringer calling on Gordon to go. Nothing if not predictable.

This was the same Graham Stringer who, at a fundraiser I did for one of our Manchester candidates, the excellent Lucy Powell, rose in the q and a to deliver a paean of praise to TB and me. I didn’t like to be churlish, but couldn’t resist pointing out that it was the kind of support leaders and their teams prefer when they’re in the job, rather than after.

Yet despite the BBC vulgarisation (phrase copyright John Cleese), the media negativity elsewhere, the Simpsons and the Stringers, I think there is at least the sense that a fightback is underway. Funnily enough, I think party activists have been ahead of ministers and MPs in feeling that all the recent defeatism has been overdone, that whatever the polls and the Cameron-cheerleading pundits may say, Dave is not the shoo-in for Downing Street he thinks he is.

I was pleased Alistair Darling was well received by the Conference. He would be the first to admit he is not a natural rabble-rousing orator, but the more people have seen of him these past difficult months, the more they have seen his fundamental decency, competence and commonsense. Those qualities have stood him and, more importantly, the economy, in good stead.

Great to see Peter Mandelson go down so well too. His speech was witty, wise in parts, and full of raw politics for the fight ahead. He reminded us of the observation TB made, that he would know his project was complete when the Party learned to love Peter. Both comments were made half in jest, but TB’s carried an important message about the importance of doing the difficult things that need to be done to win and stay in power.

What’s more, the project is not complete. Far from it. And the biggest obstacle to its completion would be a Cameron government at a time of economic recovery. As Andrew Marr reflects on the wisdom of his interview with GB yesterday, I really do hope he is putting together serious questions for Sunday about the choices Cameron and Osborne made on the economic crisis, and the impact they would have had.

Peter talked of his ups and downs with Gordon. He and I have had our ups and downs too, most notably around his second resignation. As I have said before, had it been anyone but him, we would probably have toughed it out.

But with the experience the downs have brought him, he has a deeper perspective and a humility perhaps lacking before, as when he called me after an interview in a prior shamash and said ‘I thought I did the humilty rather well.’

Writing about Angela Merkel the other day, and explaining why I thought she was on her way to victory in the German elections, I said the only communica

tions that works is authenticity. Alistair and Peter are very different characters, and very different types of politician. But what we saw today was authentically Alistair and authentically Peter.

And when Peter said that if he could come back, so could the party, you felt people saying to themselves ‘yeah, that’s right’, and you felt the mood of the place lifting. Peter as metaphor for New Labour. No wonder he was smiling.

  • Chris

    Sorry Alastair but New Labour is not going to be saved by anything that Peter Mandelson says. He may have been well received by the Labour party conference (and even I admit that his speech was witty in places) but the fact remains that he is instantly repugnant to the majority of the electorate. You only had to listen to the texts and emails being received by Radio 5 Live during and after the speech to hear just what the majority of people think of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson.

    Darling comes across as a genuinely decent guy who has been dealt a bad hand in all of this but Mandelson comes across as a political opportunist who has returned from Brussels for one last hurrah. Once again his speech was insult heavy and policy light. A great morale booster for Labour activists no doubt, but not something that’s going to change the minds of a very angry electorate.


    The project will only be complete when we have fulfilled our historic 1997 promise to have a referendum on electoral reform. Without this – there is no authenticity…

  • Alison MAssie

    It is certainly quite a turnaround for the man activists used to loathe. I think it is because he came back when times were tough, and he is showing the fight you have been talking about and calling for. He reminded me at times of Heseltine. Don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing

  • Caroline P

    I suppose what it shows again is that whatver Tony Benn says, personality does matter. I saw AListair Darling on the news and it was very much his personality. I watched Mandelson live and as you say, it was authentic. Bit odd in parts but good to see some proper energy going again

  • @jlocke13

    Firstly for once I agree.. AD and PM do authentic very well… However one can not help but notice the empty seats in the hall this year…when even the stalwarts do not turn up you know your time has come. I take issue with your assertion that GB had the recipe to lead us out of the mess he caused…think on why Germany and France have come out of recession sooner than the UK and have not created half the debt that Gordon has…It is easy to say his solution was the only way…but I suspect our children will be paying the price for a generation..And do not think the “love” for Peter by the labour party who see him as a saviour is universal …the electorate in the UK would never vote to make him PM..

  • obangobang

    Peter as a metaphor for New labour? Yeah, that about sums it up: shallow, obsessed with spin and extremely comfortable with getting filthy rich (at the taxpayer’s expense).

  • CP

    Alastair, I know he did well, but can you do something to quieten the lady on your Facebook page who goes on there day after day, sometimes dozens of times, to say Peter should be Prime Minister. I’m scared to take her on myself!! And that’s only half in jest to use your phrase … she clearly thinks the project is complete. It is LOVE

  • Henry

    If Gordon Brown could do authenticity the DC would not be a shoe in.

  • Leo

    As far as I can tell Mandelson was talking as if Labour haven’t been in power for the last twelve years, as if they hadn’t embraced the bankers they now vilify, as if they hadn’t presided over the expenses scandal, as if they hadn’t indulged in low spinning politics, as if they hadn’t attacked long established institutions, as if they hadn’t got us into one or more unjust wars, as if the country’s balance sheet hadn’t collapsed on their watch etc. He has no choice of course but,given the history, the rhetoric may not be as welcome to everyone as it is to you.

  • Alan Quinn

    You could have asked Graham “where was he?” when the Chadderton aerospace plant that employed many of his constituents was shutting!

  • David Kingston

    Mandelson’s speech should be a reminder to the usual suspects that political parties need to show unity if they are to gain public confidence. Sadly, there are too many people in the Labour Party who are more comfortable in opposition. After all, opposition is easy, it has no responsibility and can be fun for those actively involved. But it offers no prospect of meaningful achievements. Those already settling into opposition need to remember why they are politics. They need to get to work at campaigning and reminding the public of Labour’s outstanding record. Not every member will agree with everything the government has done, but remember the alternative.

  • olli issakainen

    You are number 20 (+9) on Telegraph´s list of the top 100 most influental left-wingers, ahead of people like Jackie Ashley, Geoff Mulgan, Douglas Alexander, Andrew Rawnsley and Polly Toynbee. Improvement due to your blog, I suppose.

  • gary Enefer

    Labour are enjoying a wonderful conference despite the doom and gloom of the past 18 months.

    How do I access your facebook Alastair? I have asked you but not heard back.
    Is there a public site?I start with Twitter each day and then move onto your blog from there – a nice way to spend my spare time.

    Really enjoying the whole politics thing at present.