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19th September 2012

My Political Hero: Peter Mandelson

This week Kimberly McIntosh picks the ‘Prince of Darkness’ as her political hero

‘The Prince of Darkness’, ‘The King of Spin’, ‘the Dark Lord’ and ‘the Master of the Dark Arts’ are all synonymous with Peter Mandelson. But ‘hero’ is a noun rarely used to describe the supposed Machiavellian prince.’ Pictured with oligarchs and associated with dubious loans, Mandelson’s career has been laced with scandal after scandal. Even at the World Economic Forum Mandy was greeted with hisses and boos from the crowd in pantomime fashion. Regardless of the array of criticisms thrown his way; Mandelson’s ability to bounce back from political adversity makes him a politician who is to be admired, not derided.

Tumultuous and scandal ridden as his career may have been, Mandelson’s unwavering dedication to the Labour party is apparent from his early childhood. The grandson of the Labour politician Herbert Morrison, Mandelson was raised entrenched in the party that he would devote his life’s work to. His political credentials were first established when he began canvassing for Labour at the age of six then shooting to prominence as Labour’s director of communications in the 1980s.

While he is recognised more for political meandering, illustrious friends and more illustrious betrayals, Mandelson was responsible for dragging Labour out of political obscurity. He successfully rebranded them into something electable, an incredible feat. He was willing to work with the regressive National Executive Committee and gave his utmost to Neil Kinnock. Despite heavy opposition, Mandelson managed to rebrand the party through both policy and image overhauls which gave Labour it’s much needed push into modernity. As morally ambiguous as some of his tactics may have been, his record is formidable and his skills unrivalled.

Yet it is Mandelson’s underhand strategies and love-affair with controversy that makes him so likeable. In a world of uninspiring Cameron’s and down-right dull Millibands, Mandelson never ceases to entertain. He is brazen and unabashed. Forced to resign in 1998 over a scandalous and undisclosed £373,000 loan, he returned to the cabinet a mere ten months later. He was forced to resign again in 2001 only to return again in 2008 for an unprecedented third time. No one saw it coming. As he said himself in 2001, he is ‘a fighter, not a quitter’. His apparent political immortality is comparable only to the superhuman. His longevity is intriguing, a testament to his skills and adds to his allure. Then in 2010 after a few quiet years, he released a memoir in which he divulges party gossip and brands Gordon Brown ‘a nightmare to work with’. With Mandelson one comes to expect the unexpected and it is never dull.

Peter Mandelson will always be remembered as the caricature that represents him in public consciousness. Beyond this guise however, is a man who dedicated a substantial part of his life to a party which he truly loves and believes in. His loyalty is admirable and his political durability fascinating. His methods are perhaps controversial but he did what was necessary to pull Labour out of the ‘Dark Ages’. Whatever your opinion on the man, it is difficult not to admire his talent, wit and determination.

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