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11 July 2010

Mandelson, Blair and the pathetic BBC

Left-wing corporation? My foot . . . Plus a word on Peter M.

By James Macintyre

My distinguished colleague Mehdi Hasan has written perhaps the definitive piece on why the BBC is not, in fact, “left-wing”. And yet though I am pretty familiar with the arguments, the extent to which the opposition of the myth is true never ceases to amaze me. Which is why I tore a bit out of the Evening Standard at the end of last week and put it in my wallet to blog today.

According to the paper, the agonised question of whether to include the memoirs of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson has reached the very top, and the director general Mark Thompson is so “reluctant to be accused of being ‘in’ with New Labour” he is preparing to “veto them both”. “With David Cameron in Downing Street the emphasis . . . is now not irritating the Tories,” says a BBC source. Yuk.

A footnote on Peter Mandelson. I have a confession to make. I admire him and I think he is a brilliant political strategist widely misunderstood as a betrayer of Labour’s cause when in fact he is more tribal, and has served his party much better, than many of his internal detractors. However, I was dismayed to see the slightly bizarre video he did as a trailer to the Times serialisation and interview package that is tied to his book, published by HarperCollins.

Is this the Peter Mandelson who brilliantly attacked the Murdoch press for opportunistically backing David Cameron, calling Sun executives “chumps” [or something similar] and exposed the “contract” drawn up by the cunning media baron and the governing party (even if this was a little opportunistic given New Labour’s own, ultimately self-defeating pact with Murdoch in office)?

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Worst of all in some ways, in his willingness to allow the Murdoch approach to control the selling of the book, Mandelson even describes himself as “the Prince of Darkness” and “Mandy”, two cliched labels he has always rejected in the past.

PS: If you are obsessive enough actually to look closely at the advert — which I have just seen again on Sky News — it is worth noting the very slight flinch that appears to feature on Mandelson’s face in between saying “prince of darkness” and “I don’t know why”.