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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 September 2010


The Third Man

by Peter Mandelson

New Labour politician Peter Mandelson's tome has now been overshadowed by the deluge of publicity received by his soul mate Tony Blair. Nevertheless, a review of The Third Man can provide an insight into the methods of the capitalists in their constant mission to disarm the working class.

Tony Mulhearn, Former 'Liverpool 47' Labour councillor

The purpose of this review is not to repeat the dross about personal rivalry which has been a feature of New Labour for a decade, but to analyse how Mandelson, a declared lover of the free market, a friend of the oligarchs, a foe of the trade unions, a drooling seeker of celebrities, and an implacable enemy of socialism, penetrated the very heart and took control of a party which generations of working class activists had spent over 100 years building into a mass organisation.

The self-centred character of the author is striking. The language is vacuous and obsessed with personality. Advising Gordon Brown that "If you look better on the outside, people will feel you're more in control of things" is typical of the empty phrases which pepper the book.

Delighting in name-dropping he relates how: "I had received a phone call from Matthew Freud, the PR supremo married to Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth. She had been one of my key advisors during my challenging stewardship of the Millennium Dome, and had become a good friend. Matthew wanted me to join them in Corfu for his daughter's birthday which was being organised at the house there of my friends Jacob and Serena Rothschild."

He enters the Greek taverna where the event was organised when Sun editor Rebekah Wade and Tory George Osborne competed for his company. "I planted myself next to George (Osborne) as he seemed to be the most insistent."

Mandelson worked for the Weekend World television programme with a political brief, before becoming Labour Party director of campaigns and communications in 1985.

He declares that Labour's policies in the early eighties were "hopelessly extreme" and how he, therefore, tailored Labour's policies to ensure the approval of the press barons.

In a parody of Stalinism, he established a "Shadow Communications Agency" which took decisions, not only on presentation, but the actual development of party policy.

The extent of his influence is summed up: "I was their [the media's] one-man, one-stop source, for what Labour was doing, thinking and saying."

His hostility to the unions is encapsulated by his stance during the Wapping dispute when Murdoch broke the print unions. Labour's national executive committee banned the Murdoch press. Mandelson circumvented this by asking Murdoch's hacks to leave the official press conferences, while briefing them in private later.

Discussion on the NEC is dismissed as "ideological bickering". Tellingly, he quotes John Smith's assessment of Kinnock as being a formidable "infighter in dismembering Militant, but that was about it." Mandelson avers that Kinnock would "end up by being both the hero and the fall guy of history."

Three musketeers

Mandelson's own objectives are unambiguous. On entering parliament he immediately teamed up with Blair and Brown, dubbing the trio the "three musketeers".

"My aim was," he writes, "alongside Gordon and Tony... to complete the work Neil had begun to bring a genuinely modernised Labour Party back into government." Again: "Almost by default Philip (Gould), Gordon, Tony and I began laying the foundations for a new Labour Party virtually on our own. It was exhilarating."

The key element in creating such a party was found when John Smith died. A feverish debate in the media about the qualities of the two front runners, Blair and Brown, ensued.

Brown attracted substantial support, but the media pack smelt blood. Brown, although right wing and a free marketeer, was seen as a product of old Scottish Labour. They recognised that Blair, like a confidence trickster with a permanent grin and engaging personality, had the qualities to sell New Labour to the electorate.

With the Tories mired in sleaze, leaderless and with support melting away, the capitalists needed a safe Labour Party to replace them. The 'Blair for leader' ball was set rolling by Alastair Campbell, key mouthpiece for New Labour. When asked on Newsnight whom he thought should be the next Labour leader he immediately answered 'Tony Blair'. The bulk of the press took up the cry. Thus the ruling class, through its placemen, installed Tony Blair as the leader of New Labour.

The miners and the Liverpool 47 council were defeated, the command economies had collapsed, and the leadership of the labour movement succumbed to the notion that class collaboration was the order of the day and in the rush to 'modernise' they aped the antics of the Gadarene swine.

Mandelson's capitalist outlook meshed with the pessimism of the trade union and labour leadership. Thus they embraced New Labour which saw the support from Labour's traditional base melting away.

Robert Harris's book The Ghost is based on a Blair-like character who was sent into the Labour Party by the CIA with the brief to turn it into an agency of US foreign policy. This is unlikely. But the success of the Mandelson project would suggest that such a notion is not too great an exaggeration.

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In The Socialist 15 September 2010:

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The Third Man


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