David Miliband on Peter Mandelson’s memoir

The shadow foreign secretary tells me there is some truth in Mandy’s revelations.

"I don't want the Labour Party to be part of a backward-looking soap opera," David Miliband told me this afternoon, in response to a question about Peter Mandelson's gossip-ridden memoir, The Third Man, which has been serialised in the Times . I was interviewing the shadow foreign secretary and Labour leadership candidate for a forthcoming feature in the magazine.

He says he hasn't read the book, or all of the related stories in the newspapers, but added:

Peter is a very serious person and I'd imagine he wrote a very serious book.

What about the timing of the book, in the midst of this leadership campaign? The shadow foreign secretary said:

I think that people don't want a soap opera, they want something about their lives . . . We've all got a responsibility for building a Labour Party for the future.

I mentioned to Miliband how Mandelson now says he'd like to serve again in a Labour government. Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham have both ruled out an unprecedented third return to the front bench for Baron Mandelson of Foy, but David Miliband would only say:

I'm not giving out jobs . . . It would be presumptuous for me to start doling out jobs in the shadow cabinet, never mind in the cabinet. Of all the things I'm worried about in the future of the Labour Party, [I'm not worried about] whether or not Peter Mandelson will be in the next cabinet.

But then he added this clever disclaimer:

By then I'd like to have an elected House of Lords so we only have elected politicians in the cabinet.

I guess that rules out the ex-first secretary of state from a fourth spell in a Labour cabinet.

I asked Miliband, a former Downing Street aide to Tony Blair, whether he recognised the picture painted by Mandelson of Brownite aides in No 11 behaving "destructively" and running an "insurgency" against No 10, and he replied:

I worked in No 10 from 1997 to 2001 and I think it is fair to say those were the better years for accord and harmony and unity.

So an accurate description of the later years, perhaps, I asked?


Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.