Anyone who saw the Peter Mandelson doc the other day on the BBC – endearingly entitled “Peter Mandelson: The Real PM” – will probably come away knowing very little about
Lord Voldemort Mandelson the Man.
One thing that stood out though: he seemed completely unflappable, even in the face of failure on the eve of the election, even while running at least two state departments and having lots of fingers in lots of pies.
How could this be? I think I might have cracked it.
Forget Mandelson the Man, here is my take on Mandelson the Method:
- When asked an emotive question, respond with facts (ie “You may be unhappy that the banks stole all your money, but in the longer term you’ll get it back, even if they then steal it all again” – not a quote from him, I should add, I made that up to illustrate my point)
- When asked a factual question, respond with emotion (ie “Yes, 80 billion pounds bailout is quite a lot, it’s true, but I’m sure you feel much more secure knowing our banking system is still functioning – even if they’re going to steal it all again” – ditto)
- When asked a question from which there is no escape, ask another one, firmly, several times if necessary (ie “What allegations? What allegations? What allegations?” – and this time he really did say that, repeatedly, to browbeat a junior correspondent asking whether Gordon Brown really did give Chinese burns and deadlegs behind the bike sheds)
So that’s how you skim across the surface tension of politics without causing even a ripple. Perhaps he agonises inside. But his MO is a nice way of ensuring no one can tell.