Mandelson, Peter

▪ 2005

      In 2004 Peter Benjamin Mandelson, one of the United Kingdom's most talented but controversial politicians, took over one of the European Union's most important jobs when he was appointed Britain's member of the EU Commission and given the EU trade portfolio. One of his main responsibilities in this post would be to represent the EU at the World Trade Organization. The appointment was a remarkable comeback for a man who had twice had to resign from Prime Minister Tony Blair's government over allegations of wrongdoing.

      Mandelson was born in London on Oct. 21, 1953. The grandson of Herbert Morrison, deputy prime minister during the Labour government of 1945–51, Mandelson was interested in politics from childhood. A brief flirtation with communism ended while he was a student at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, and he became a member of the Labour Party. After receiving his degree in philosophy, politics, and economics, he joined the staff of the Trades Union Congress. In 1979, by then a committed Labour Party moderate, he was elected to Lambeth borough council in South London, but he resigned in 1982, disillusioned with the borough's left-wing leadership.

      That same year he became a producer of a weekly television political program, Weekend World, a vantage point that sharpened his view of Labour's defects and the party's need to modernize its policies and appeal. In 1985 Mandelson was appointed Labour's director of communications by Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. He promoted Kinnock's modernization agenda and ensured high media profiles for some of Labour's rising stars, then in their 30s, such as Blair and Gordon Brown.

      In 1992 Mandelson was elected Labour MP for Hartlepool, a coastal town in northeastern England. In 1997, following Labour's return to government and Blair's election as prime minister, Mandelson became a middle-ranking minister. One of his responsibilities was to oversee the early stages of the building of the controversial and, eventually, ill-fated Millennium Dome at Greenwich, southeast London. A year later he was promoted to the cabinet as trade and industry secretary. In December 1998 he resigned following the disclosure that he had borrowed money from a fellow minister to buy a house and had not officially declared the fact. By October 1999, however, Blair felt that Mandelson had paid an adequate price for his mistake and returned him to the cabinet as Northern Ireland secretary. This lasted until January 2001, when he was compelled to resign again, this time over allegations that he had acted improperly over the issuing of U.K. passports to two wealthy Indian businessmen.

      A subsequent inquiry exonerated Mandelson, but he accepted that he was unlikely to be given a third chance to join Blair's cabinet. Nevertheless, he remained a close ally of Blair's, especially in arguing that Britain should work more closely with the rest of the EU member countries. Blair's decision to appoint him as the U.K.'s EU commissioner in July 2004 was a logical way of both pursuing a pro-European strategy and bringing Mandelson's troubled domestic political career to a civilized end. In September he resigned from Parliament to move to Brussels and start his new job.

Peter Kellner

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▪ British politician
in full  Peter Benjamin Mandelson 
born Oct. 21, 1953, London, Eng.

      British politician, who was a leading adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Blair, Tony), a member of the British House of Commons (1992–2004), and business secretary (2008– ) under Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Brown, Gordon).

      The grandson of Herbert Morrison, deputy prime minister during the Labour Party government of 1945–51, Mandelson was interested in politics from a young age. A brief flirtation with communism ended while he was a student at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, and he became a member of the Labour Party. After receiving his degree in philosophy, politics, and economics, he joined the staff of the Trades Union Congress. In 1979 Mandelson, by then a committed Labour Party moderate, was elected to Lambeth borough council in South London, but he resigned in 1982, disillusioned with the borough's left-wing leadership.

      That same year Mandelson became a producer of a weekly television political program, Weekend World, a vantage point that sharpened his view of Labour's defects and the party's need to modernize its politics and appeal. In 1985 Mandelson was appointed Labour's director of communications by party leader Neil Kinnock (Kinnock, Neil, Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty). He promoted Kinnock's modernization agenda and ensured high media profiles for some of Labour's rising stars, then in their 30s, such as Blair (Blair, Tony) and Brown.

      In 1992 Mandelson was elected Labour MP for Hartlepool, a coastal town in northeastern England. In 1997, following Labour's return to government and Blair's election as prime minister, Mandelson became a middle-ranking minister. A year later he was promoted to the cabinet as trade and industry secretary, but he resigned in December 1998 following the disclosure that he had borrowed money from a fellow minister to buy a house and had not officially declared the fact. By October 1999, however, Blair felt that Mandelson had paid an adequate price for his mistake and returned him to the cabinet as Northern Ireland secretary. A second resignation came in January 2001, after allegations surfaced that he had acted improperly over the issuing of British passports to two wealthy Indian businessmen.

      A subsequent inquiry exonerated Mandelson, but he accepted that he was never likely to be given a third chance to join Blair's cabinet. Nevertheless, he remained a close ally of Blair's, especially in arguing that Britain should work more closely with the rest of the EU member countries. In 2004 Mandelson was appointed Britain's member of the EU Commission and given the EU trade portfolio. The appointment was a logical way of both pursuing a pro-European strategy and bringing Mandelson's troubled domestic political career to an end. In 2008, however, Mandelson left his EU post after Brown named him business secretary, thereby returning him to the cabinet. Because he had resigned from the House of Commons in 2004, Mandelson was made a peer in the House of Lords in order to join the government.

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Universalium. 2010.

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