Mesmerised by the snake

For all the Westminster talk of Mandelson's supposed genius, his lust for power at any cost, and pol

Tories leave Birmingham after a strange conference, emerging from the bubble. One Parliamentary Candidate described the round of sedate parties, lack of whoopee and absent feral behaviour as, "Must have been what it was like to be at a garden party in 1914, you know that something unpleasant is brewing, you just don’t know what."

There was certainly a feeling of preparation in Birmingham, the machine is working. Many candidates have been in place for a while so were instantly recognisable by delegates. This is helpful, particularly for the females. Should the Tories win an election in eighteen months, Cameron is going to have to call on many of these newly elected women to fill positions.

Quick! The world's collapsing. Back to London.

So to date "Westminster" the soap opera continues, a brief synopsis of this week’s episode-

*Gordy didn’t like *Mandy but took Mandy back because he’s scared of *Andy. Andy’s on *Dave’s side who is best friends with *George. George had some Tatziki with Mandy but make no mistake he’s still with George and Andy. Gordy is hoping Mandy will become his Andy but he probably won’t. Mandy said some stuff about Gordy to George, Mandy blames the Ouzo. Mandy still pines for *Tony but deep-down knows that Tony now probably loves Dave. Sub-plot, *Steve came back, modelled a series of perfectly distressed t-shirts but has returned to *Rachel. (Includes confusing Taverna Agni dream sequence).

Trying to understand the Peter Mandelson come back has flummoxed many Tories. It is odd. Blair and Alastair Campbell, were a constant fascination to Tories. The New Labour project has been studied, what worked/what didn’t, where they made their mistakes.

Conservative Campaign Headquarters always had a respect for Blair. During PMQs there was always a tinge of admiration as cat-like Blair slinked his way out of some mess with a bit of self-depreciation, wit or smart arse.

In Tory circles people still talk about Blair. It is almost as if he’s one of them. Granted, it takes two bottles at a Richard Curtis-style dinner party in Pimlico, but inevitably someone will thump the table and admit “God damn it, I miss Blair”. Everyone will agree. Choice slices of speeches will be quoted: “If it is, on occasion, the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for pursuit of noble causes...” is a favourite.

It’s slightly different with Peter Mandelson. For all the Westminster talk of his supposed genius, his lust for power at any cost, and political savvy the Tories reckon the voting public still think he’s slimy. “People will not be mesmerised by the snake,” said one Tory grandee.

Being interested in the other side is only natural. William Hague gave all members of his Shadow Cabinet Philip Gould’s (Baron Gould of Brookwood, no less) “The Unfinished Revolution”- how New Labour was born. He recognised it was important for his team to understand how their war was won.

In the real world away from Westminster, many who were involved with the Blair machine and who worked in CCHQ are colleagues, maybe even friends. Through the barricades stuff they drink into the night debating what happened, what actually was the New Labour project? Did it work? What now?

The worm has turned. It is said that Gordon Brown is “obsessed” by Conservatives Communications Chief, Andy Coulson. This may be one of the reasons he hired a succession of PR and expensive business types to take control before seeing sense and handing over the reigns to arch - nemesis Lord Mandy.

There will always be political groups who fascinate each other; politicians are always drawn to politicians, like actors to actors. Look what happened when George Osborne and Peter Mandelson found themselves on the same Greek island : the possibility of a gossip and a spot of lunch was too good an opportunity to turn down.

A Shadow Cabinet member sums up his thoughts on the Mandelson appointment, “It would be like David going cap in hand to [Jeffrey]Archer and begging him to return . ”

*Gordy- Brown PM

*Mandy- Lord Peter

*Andy- Coulson

*George- Osborne



*Rachel-Whetstone, Steve’s girl.

This article first appeared in the 13 October 2008 issue of the New Statesman, The facade cracks