Why is it that the spectacle of Peter Mandelson writing a letter to this morning’s Times has something of the air of the murderer returning to the scene of his crime?
It’s not just the mealy mouthed words or the crafted attempt to blame others for a statement released by his office which amounted to an untruth (albeit a lie of omission rather than the more explicit kind). Nor is it the undisguised contempt with which he writes of the electorate (“some people formed the reasonable view, therefore, that my first meeting with him was in 2006” – what view did you intend them to form?).
No - if weasel words and half truths are what we have come to expect from Mandelson the man – then no Ermine robe is likely to change that.
What is sinister about the letter is the reminder it brings of the real reason Mandelson has been called back into Government – because it most certainly is not for his skills at the DOT, no matter how many Oligarchs he can boast of in his Blackberry. The mere appointment of a Minister for Trade wouldn’t justify the return of such a controversial figure to a Government that already has the greatest Chancellor in the known world – with Alistair Darling to help out if the need arises.
The real reason that Mandelson is back is to change the narrative, keep out the bad headlines, and help the public swallow the line that the recession is something global and impossible to protect against - as unpredictable as an attack from Mars or a shower of meteorites.
Changing the narrative requires two things of the media, firstly that they are assiduous in delivering the party line (and the BBC appear now to surrendered all pretence at unbiased reporting), and secondly that they are prepared to be led on the kind of wild goose chase that we have all been on this week in the Yachtgate affair, expending time and resources on a barely founded smear campaign while allowing the truth of a failing economy and a tanking pound to slide to the back burner.
Only one man can do this – and no matter how great the discomfort among the electorate of all sides, for Gordon Brown this last desperate Faustian pact is worthwhile. This morning’s excuse for an explanation (headlined by the Times as if it were an apology of sorts) will be the first of many.