Opinion: Mandelson slips into political shadows

So, Peter Mandelson is back. The word in Westminster is that the cabinet job the Prime Minister had lined up for his pal was culture, media and sport. That, though, was before the rest of the cabinet told Tony Blair that Mandy's return was not on.

Mo Mowlam reacted to news of Mandelson's job in Brussels by recalling the story about when he lost his cabinet job for a second time; the former Northern Ireland minister invited Mandy for breakfast at the Savoy to commiserate with him: 'He was arrogant, vain and self-obsessed. Not one word did he utter that did not concern himself.'

The Prince of Darkness displayed similar manners at lunch with The Sunday Times editor a few weeks ago, which is why the paper's recent profile, titled 'Blair's pedigree chump', was so hostile.

The great mystery about Mandelson remains. Why can't he transfer his undoubted PR talent for promoting others to promoting himself? He can't even see what a complete pillock he looks dressed in clothes more suited to a 30-year-old than someone in his 50s.

As for the dog he likes to be snapped with, that's a PR disaster, too.

It gives hacks the opening to write not just about Bobby the dog, but also 'Bobby' - the codeword Blair used for Mandy in his campaign to become Labour leader.

Blair needed that codeword to conceal from as many people as possible that Mandelson was working for him. This is an example of the pair's duplicity and something Mandelson should be trying to get us to forget.

The reaction to Mandelson's appointment to Brussels has been largely negative, even by those ardent pro-Europeans who want a massive yes-vote in the referendum on the European constitution. They think that Mandelson will turn the voters off Europe. They have a point, but the fact is, the commissioner will not be as high profile as people think. The campaign will be led and run from London, not Mandelson's office in Brussels - and if by then Gordon Brown is PM, it will be a case of Peter who?

It is Brown who is happiest with Mandelson's departure from British politics. There is little doubt that now Mandelson is out of the way, many ministers will sleep more peacefully, none more so than Brown.

By saying 'yes' to the job abroad, Mandelson has accepted that his UK political career is effectively over, which is why he took so much time to mull it over. I wish him luck, in the knowledge that his removal from Westminster means I won't have to write about him so much.

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