Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Peter Mandelson backs Gordon Brown"

Fortunately, I can't get a signal for Channel 5 in the Highlands of Scotland, so I didn't see Alastair Campbell's interview with Peter Mandelson.

Ever desperate to spin a line, the twice-disgraced former minister was kind

enough to brief his mates in advance aboutwhat he would say. "Mandelson supporting Gordon Brown for the future leadership," read the Sunday papers, although that's not what he said. The actual quote was: "I think that Gordon Brown will be [Tony Blair's] new Labour successor." Mandy couldn't, of course, bring himself to say Brown would be the next prime minister.

I don't know where the Prince of Darkness was during the Chancellor's speech at last year's Labour Party conference, but I don't recall Brown once using the phrase "new Labour".

Like me, he won't have watched the Campbell-Mandelson interview, and who can blame him? Remember the private note that Mandy wrote him following John Smith's death? Basically it said, "I love you, Gordon, and I will do anything to help you become leader." The problem was that Brown saw through this farrago. Now Mandelson himself has admitted the

truth, coughing to Campbell that he would have saved himself grief if he had made it clearer earlier that he supported Blair.

It is difficult to know exactly what game Mandelson is playing now. Virtually no one in the party trusts him and every leadership contender knows that his support would be the kiss of death. Sending him off to Brussels may be the best solution, but why on earth should the Prime Minister give such an important international job to a self-confessed fibber? Perhaps Mandelson should just join Campbell on the pantomime circuit.