14:10 UPDATE: 1360 PEOPLE SIGN PETITION FOR BYERS TO BE STRIPPED OF PRIVY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP
“We mustn’t be hasty” a political contact advised me in the aftermath of the cash-for-legislative-perversion ‘sting’ of yesterday. I don’t see the haste involved in firing somebody whose professional conduct has now been brought into such obvious question. If the man in charge of Business stands implicated in yet more funny business, he should go immediately.
Although his Lordship is now busily (I hear) writing some interesting bits to alleviate the boredom of listening to Alistair Darling’s Budget speech, his Business Ministry site shows Mandelson still actively encouraging banks to lend money they don’t have, and encouraging Britain’s entrepreneurs to invest in a future most of them can’t see. With not a peep from the Prime Minister about the scandal in general or his ‘ally’ in particular, surely the Opposition should be asking why?
There are only two defences against this viewpoint I can imagine the Business Minister launching, and they are both risible. The first would be that Stephen Byers is a mad fantasist who simply isn’t credible – and has already issued an email saying he didn’t mean much of what he said. Were this true, we would be entitled to ask why he was a prominent Minister in the Labour Government in the first place, but the fact is, it clearly isn’t true: a specific and enormously powerful commercial concern (Tesco) was named by Byers, and one person familiar with the events involved has already described Byers’ boast during the Channel Four interview as “pretty much as I remember things happening at the time”.
The second would be that Lord Mandelson was merely alerting the legislators involved to a fault in their labelling laws – and thus doing his bit to cut red tape in the drive to ram home our ‘recovery’. But this too does not hold water. People must surely ask why he went on the word of a man thought by many to be an idiot (why didn’t Tesco go through proper channels?) and also why Byers described Mandelson as having ‘fixed it’. This is the language of secret influence, not correcting faults – the very same secret lobbying gravy train these four clowns were trying to grab a share in.
This time, there is no chance for Peter Mandelson to be given the ‘jury ignorance’ of past behaviour awarded to ordinary criminals on trial. One of The Slog’s 2010 predictions was that the year would see this man embroiled in yet more murky goings-on, because this hastily ennobled peer is always involved in things of an unsavoury nature. He lied about Brown’s personality, lied about this site’s political affiliations (we don’t have any) and most important of all, is lying at the moment about there being any real private sector recovery.
One gets the sense, ever since this clever – but profoundly silly and vindictive – man took revenge on George Osborne about Vodka Palace gossip last Autumn, that the Tory Party walks in fear of him. Certainly, Mandelson himself boasted of this on his return, telling the media how “the Conservatives are terrified of me running the election”. For once in his wasted and cloud-covered public life, I think we can assume that he was telling the truth.
The Opposition has shown a distinct lack of killer instinct in this, the election that dare not declare its name. George Osborne has broken that spell on the economic side of things, but here in Slogger’s Roost we are still left wondering what on earth is holding David Cameron back.
The Conservative Party is being offered a golden opportunity here – with the Moral Tone himself about to get involved – to make Lord Mandelson yet another Labour liability. They should call for his head now, before the Budget – and then watch Brown squirm in his denial of the clear case for it.