Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Mandelson to help in election strategy"

Every few months some gullible lobby hack reports the return of Peter Mandelson. This past month, even more than usual have produced this

"garbage", as my old pal Alastair Campbell

would have put it. The Prince of Darkness has certainly been busy briefing, but it remains a mystery as to why anyone believes a word he tells them.

Many journos still write that the twice-disgraced minister was responsible for the election triumph of 1997. In fact, Gordon Brown was in charge of that campaign, as he was for the last one, both resulting in landslide victories. The only campaign Mandelson had sole responsibility for was the humiliating defeat of 1987.

So on to the next campaign, to be run yet again by the Iron Chancellor. Does anyone with half a brain believe that Brown would let Mandelson within a million miles of the strategy? Of course not. The only person who believes he has something to offer Labour is Mandelson himself.

The new man taking over from Campbell,

David Hill, won't be keen to see him around either. It was Mandelson who ensured that the immensely respected and trustworthy Hill was sidelined after the 1997 election. Because Hill did his job well and refused to be drawn into internal feuds, Mandelson didn't trust him.

Tony Blair may be desperate at the moment but even he isn't desperate enough to bring Mandy back. He knows that any official involvement of his old mate would make his task of pretending to ditch spin impossible.

The real interest over the coming months is who Mandelson supports to take on Brown for the leadership. Mandy knows that when the Chancellor moves to No 10 his political career will be over.