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Message machine Mandelson on form today

Posted on 27 January 2010 | 12:01pm

Say what you like about Peter Mandelson – some of you will doubtless take up the invitation – but he knows how to pack a few messages into a newspaper interview.

I particularly like the way, in his Mirror interview today, that he paid tribute to the British people in their role in getting Britain through one of the toughest economic periods any of us can remember. Too often, these issues are presented as being for governments and big business alone.

It is true that the government made some very big decisions as the economic crisis struck, and many of the fairer elements in today’s media recognise the role of those decisions in getting us to the fragile recovery we now appear to have.

But Peter set it out differently. I quote now from the Labour Party’s media monitoring department’s account of this part of the interview. ‘We’ve come out of it better than most people hoped or predicted because a lot of people around the country tightened their belts. They made real sacrifices. People have given up hours or some of their salary to help employers through. There are employees and employers for whom the recession has been a real struggle but whose sacrifices have enabled many more businesses to come through the recession intact than was the case in the 1980s or the 1990s. The real heroes of the recession are the British people’.

But he is nothing if not Labour and so never far away from taking a shot at the Tories, whose bad calls on the recession get precious little media attention considering they are seen by many as a government-in-waiting. ‘Many people on the shop floor and the high street are still feeling the effects of the recession. We aren’t out of it completely. We have stuck by businesses through the recession so we can blunt the impact of unemployment. But the Tories called the recession wrong and now are calling the recovery wrong. They’re saying, ‘pull support away & start cutting into government spending & investment straight away’. If you swing the axe blindly you will find yourselves cutting the roots of growth rather than the branches of public spending. That is the great risk posed by the Tories. If the Tories get the chance to call this wrong later this year we will be at risk of slipping back into recession and unemployment starting to mount again. It’s not a question of whether you reduce the deficit, it’s when and how. Get that wrong and we will be taking a colossal risk with the economy … The recovery remains fragile. The urgent priority for businesses is for the government to maintain support for the economy and to lift and maintain demand.’.

Peter went through some pretty bruising election defeats in his time and clearly shares my view that the Tories really are just banking on ‘time for a change’ and don’t feel they have to do that much to show they deserve to get back. ‘I think those like David Cameron, who think all they need to do is sit back, say little and wait for power to be passed to them on a plate will be in for a shock. The time will come fairly soon for everyone to start looking behind the airbrushed posters of Cameron and ask what does this guy and this party mean for me and my family?’

He was also very good on the need for Labour to show themselves as a team of ministers, in contrast to a Tory frontbench, only a handful of whose members are generally known by the public.

Last word to the paper in which his views appeared, and an editorial saying that the announcement we are out of recession should cause us to pause and reflect how much worse it could have been if the Labour government had not stepped in, salvaging banks, savings, homes and jobs. ‘Either Britain moves forward with Labour values and policies or it slips back with a Conservative Party whose cuts would plunge Britain back into recession,’ it says. Hear hear.


  • James

    One problem – opening sentence – “we’ve come out of it better than most people hoped or predicted…”

    Classic New Labour spin and simply isn’t true. Most economists and journalists (including you) expected the UK to exit the recession last quarter. This was delayed a quarter and the growth was still much lower than expectations (could still be rounded down later). Next quarter’s results could see a double-dip – suggesting we might not have come out of it at all. Furthermore Brown told us all we would be leading the world out of recession – we haven’t and are the last of the official G20 to recover.

    Good effort – but frankly the UK has emerged worse from this recession than any of the official predictions given by the current Government. To suggest that you have exceeded expectations or hope is optimistic!

  • James Cowley

    Alastair, A good reflection of the article and Mandy’s Media Savvy nature – Did he learn from you? /smile joke.

    In response, we as Labour need to show unity, and expose the Tories as best we can. After all the election is not a referendum, it’s a fundamental choice.

  • Jason Orme

    Really compelling stuff from Mandelson.

    I was particularly interested yesterday in the way the media treated the ‘UK out of recession’ story. Most often the story revolved around comments made by Tory and Lib dem spokesmen with very little reflection of the positive reaction. By the end of the day I felt as if things were a lot worse than the actual facts suggested.

    This is, I have to say, typical of the mainstream media.

  • Chris lancashire

    As they say in Parliament, we don’t need any lessons from the party that caused the recession. Brown’s ridiculous tripartite banking supervision system coupled with an over supply of cheap money into the system caused this recession. Mind you, the Tories went along with him at the time.
    For Mandelson now to tell us that only he and Brown can lead us safely to the promised land is a line only swallowed by the blindest of New Labour supporters.

  • TheE17Tory

    Great media savviness to pack all those messages into the…oh…wait….the Mirror i.e. the printing arm of the Labor Party!!God, times must be desperate if you praising getting something into that rag!!

  • Nick

    Presumably the sight of Lord M on the front page of today’s Mirror, dressed up as James Bond, is yet another example of the superficial red top journalism that Campbell so deplores ?

    No ? Thought not.

    The very thought that the unelected Baron Mandelson of Foy knows what “people on the shop floor” are thinking had me in stitches.

  • peter

    Gordon Brown and his cronies seem remarkably talented at predicting the past with a hypothetical tory government at the helm. Pity they were not so good at predicting the course of the future economy over the last decade. 3 fold increases in property prices are very corrosive to society, unless of course you’re already set up in a nice west london gaff. There will be a correction – especially when bond markets aggressively sell gilts and mortgage rates rise. Household debt passed one trillion in 2004. Again corrosive to society. New labor ?- what a load of bollocks. Instead of dismissing Vince Cable, Brown should have listened. prick

  • Paul Harper

    What I admire about Mandelson is that he has weathered a lot of storms and a fair few attacks, not to mention the occasional crisis, and he strikes me as being a more mature version of the same person who started out all those years ago in opposition. I agree that he is also someone who can make a point clearly and takes no nonsense from radio and TV interviewers

  • Charlie Reynolds

    Did you see him being humiliated on Channel 4 news? It was so good to see a sensible politician answering questions honestly and reasonably and the contrast with mandelson could not have been greater. The noble Lord tried every trick in the book but Ken Clarke just came across as sensible and honest. It reminded you that there was a time before the repulsive New Labour approach to government.

    This election will be won on economic policy. Today Labour’s talk of not cutting too soon has been blown apart. The reality is that if we do not cut now – the cuts will be greater in the future.

    All we see is a government that has failed to act responsibly, encouraged greed to excesses Thatcher would never even have dreamed of, believed they had abolished boom and bust, spent the bank to help them win an election and then will want to blame their successors for taking the tough decisions required.

    All this and Chilcot too. Oh and don’t forget that the gap between rich and poor has got worse under Labour according to Harriet Harman’s report. What a lie that you get undeserved poor media coverage. You should thank god that most sane people have just given up on you.