So the Prince of Darkness has returned, the New Labour project is renewed and I hear Tony Blair is to be announced tomorrow as the new Deputy Prime Minister...
Well, let's not get too carried away. Mandy's return may be an amazing decision, one which puts us back on the road to recovery. It may be a disaster, the final straw which confirms our removal from Government. But more likely, it will be forgotten about in a week or so, a la Comrade Digby.
The point is, Mandy's return is a fantastic way for GB to claim the news headlines. We (well at least anyone who was sad enough to follow such things) had been subjected to the usual hacks who happily informed us exactly what was going to happen in this reshuffle - Gordon could not do anything to shock them. Except of course he could, and did.
Mandelson, along with Margaret Beckett's return, brings some much needed experience to the Cabinet. GB's speech to Conference was well received, and the comment about not needing a novice at this point did seem to hit some chords with the public. Election winner? No, but enough to at least reverse some of the difficulties which the Government was experiencing, demonstrating that it was possible for Labour to pull back some polling points and for the Conservatives to actively win the election rather than just waiting for us to give it to them. I applauded GB's Cabinet which he put together - the promotion of people such as Jacqui Smith to such a crucial brief was a masterstroke - however, it did leave itself open to accusations of being rather lightweight. The reshuffle today (and let's not forget that there will probably be a bigger one next year) strengthened the Cabinet's collective experience and there is no doubt that Mandy briungs some major strengths to his brief, particularly given his time in the EU. Furthermore, it demonstrates a welcome (and hopefully permanent) end to their rift and a demonstration to the public that we can work together as a party.
Of course, his appointment also brings potential pit falls. Having to resign twice from Government is hardly the pinnacle of political achievement and doesn't help alleviate allegations of sleaze on our behalf. The return of such a prominent figure from the TB years can be seen as an example of a lack of ideas in GB's Government and/or a last desperate attempt to hold on to power by using previous success. And of course it really gets the left of the Party boiling with anger!
Personally, I believe that he will be a successful Business Secretary but his arrival will not win or lose the next election. What I hope it indicates is that GB is taking the fight to the Tories, working to overcome his own rifts with some key players in the Party and putting together a strong and coherent plan for Government which will demonstrate to the people of the UK that he is the man to continue leading our country. We will have to wait and see how that pans out...
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