Peter Mandelson

"Mandelson" redirects here. For the surname, see Mandelson (surname).

The Right Honourable
The Lord Mandelson
First Secretary of State
In office
5 June 2009  11 May 2010
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by John Prescott (2007)
Succeeded by William Hague
Lord President of the Council
In office
5 June 2009  11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Succeeded by Nick Clegg
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
In office
5 June 2009  11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Himself (Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform)
John Denham (Innovation, Universities and Skills)
Succeeded by Vince Cable
Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
In office
3 October 2008  5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by John Hutton
Succeeded by Himself (Business, Innovation and Skills)
President of the Board of Trade
In office
3 October 2008  11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by John Hutton
Succeeded by Vince Cable
In office
27 July 1998  23 December 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Margaret Beckett
Succeeded by Stephen Byers
European Commissioner for Trade
In office
22 November 2004  3 October 2008
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Pascal Lamy
Succeeded by Catherine Ashton
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
11 October 1999  24 January 2001
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Mo Mowlam
Succeeded by John Reid
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
27 July 1998  23 December 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Margaret Beckett
Succeeded by Stephen Byers
Minister without Portfolio
In office
2 May 1997  27 July 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Brian Mawhinney
Succeeded by Charles Clarke
Member of Parliament
for Hartlepool
In office
9 April 1992  8 September 2004
Preceded by Ted Leadbitter
Succeeded by Iain Wright
Personal details
Born Peter Benjamin Mandelson
(1953-10-21) 21 October 1953
Hampstead Garden, England
Political party Labour
Domestic partner Reinaldo Avila da Silva
Alma mater St Catherine's College, Oxford

Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Baron Mandelson PC (born 21 October 1953) is a British Labour politician, president of international think tank Policy Network and Chairman of strategic advisory firm Global Counsel. He served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Hartlepool from 1992 to 2004, and held a number of Cabinet positions under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He was also the European Commissioner for Trade between 2004 and 2008.

Mandelson was one of several individuals responsible for the rebranding of the Labour Party as New Labour before its subsequent victory in the 1997 election.[1] He resigned twice from the Cabinet before leaving Parliament to take up an appointment as a European Commissioner. He later rejoined the Cabinet for a third time after being created a Life Peer, sitting on the Labour benches in the House of Lords.[2]

Early life

Peter Mandelson was born in Hampstead Garden Suburb, Middlesex,[3] on 21 October 1953,[1] the son of Mary Joyce (née Morrison) and George Norman Mandelson.[4] His father's family was Jewish; his grandfather had founded the Harrow United Synagogue. His father (known as Tony) was the advertising manager of The Jewish Chronicle[5] who was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Dragoons in World War II.[6] On his mother's side Peter is the grandson of Margaret (Kent) and Herbert Morrison, the London County Council Leader and Labour Cabinet Minister.[7] He attended Garden Suburb Primary School[6] and between 1965 and 1972 Hendon County Grammar School.[1] In 1966 he appeared on stage with the local amateur theatre group, the Hampstead Garden Suburb Dramatic Society, as the eponymous lead in The Winslow Boy.[8]

From 1973 to 1976 he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Catherine's College, Oxford, and in the late 1970s he became Chairman of the British Youth Council. As Chair of the BYC he was a delegate in 1978 to the Soviet-organised World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana, Cuba, where with several future Labour Cabinet colleagues, he - together with Hilary Barnard, future IUSY President, and Trevor Phillips - successfully frustrated agreement on a distorted Soviet text on youth in the capitalist countries.[9][10]

In his teenage years, he was also a member of the Young Communist League[1] but was a member of the Oxford University Labour Club delegation to the December 1975 NOLS Conference when the entryist Militant group lost control of NOLS. He was elected to Lambeth Borough Council in September 1979 but stood down in 1982, disillusioned with the state of Labour politics.[11]

Mandelson worked as a television producer at London Weekend Television on Weekend World, where he formed a friendship with his superior John (now Lord) Birt.

Labour's Director of Communications

Labour leader Neil Kinnock appointed him as Labour's director of communications in 1985.

As Director, he was one of the first people in Britain to whom the term "spin doctor" was applied; he was thus called "the Prince of Darkness".[12][13]

In 1986 Mandelson ran the campaign at the Fulham by-election in which Labour defeated the Conservative Party.[14] For the 1987 election campaign, Mandelson commissioned film director Hugh Hudson, whose Chariots of Fire (1981) had won an Oscar as Best Picture, to make a party political broadcast promoting Neil Kinnock as a potential prime minister. Tagged "Kinnock – the Movie", it led to the party leader's approval rating being raised by 16%[15] or 19% in polls[16] and was even repeated in another PPB slot.[15] The election, held on 11 June 1987, returned Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives for the third time, although Labour gained 20 seats,[17] and, this time, convincingly pushed the SDP-Liberal Alliance into third place. Opponents termed the Labour Party's election campaign "a brilliantly successful election defeat".[16]

He ceased being a Labour Party official in 1990 when he was selected as Labour candidate for the safe seat of Hartlepool.

Political career

Shadow Cabinet

First elected to the House of Commons at the 1992 general election,[18] Mandelson made several speeches outlining his strong support for the European Union. Although sidelined during the brief period when John Smith led the party, Mandelson was by now close to two Shadow Cabinet members – Gordon Brown and Tony Blair – each regarded as potential future leaders of the party.

Following Smith's sudden death on 12 May 1994, Mandelson chose to back Blair for the leadership, believing him to be a superior communicator to Brown[19] and played a leading role in the leadership campaign. This created antagonism between Mandelson and Brown, though they were considered allies in the Labour Party.[20] In 1994 Kate Garvey suggested that Mandelson (who was at the time being derided by the trade unions and other Labour factions), should adopt a "nom de guerre" throughout Blair's leadership bid, so that he might conceal his considerable role within the campaign team. Mandelson agreed to be called "Bobby" for the duration and was thanked by Blair using this name in his victory speech.[21][22]

After becoming a close ally and trusted adviser to Tony Blair, Mandelson was Labour's election campaign director for the 1997 general election, which Labour won decisively.[23]

Government Minister

He was appointed as a Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, where his job was to co-ordinate within government. A few months later, he also acquired responsibility for the Millennium Dome, after Blair decided to go ahead with the project despite the opposition of most of the cabinet (including the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who had been running it). Jennie Page, the Dome project's chief executive, was abruptly sacked after a farcical opening night. She gave evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee for Culture and Heritage in June 2000. In what was seen as a reference to the close interest in the Dome from Mandelson, known at the time as so-called "Dome Secretary", and his successor Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Page told the committee: "I made several attempts to persuade ministers that standing back from the Dome would be good for them as well as good for the Dome".[24]

In July 1998 he was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry; he launched the Millennium Bug And Electronic Commerce Bill and a Competitiveness White Paper, which he described, as 'bold, far reaching and absolutely necessary'. He also appointed a "Net Tsar" to lead the UK in what he termed the "new industrial revolution". In 1998 he was appointed a Privy Counsellor.

First resignation

Mandelson bought a home in Notting Hill in 1996 partly with an interest-free loan of £373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson, a cabinet colleague and millionaire whose business dealings were subject to an inquiry by Mandelson's department.[25] Mandelson contended that he had deliberately not taken part in any decisions relating to Robinson. However, he had not declared the loan in the Register of Members' Interests, and resigned in December 1998.[25] Mandelson had also not declared the loan to his building society (the Britannia) although they decided not to take any action, with the CEO stating "I am satisfied that the information given to us at the time of the mortgage application was accurate."[26] Mandelson initially thought he could weather the press storm, but had to resign when it became clear that the Prime Minister thought nothing else would clear the air.[27]

In October 2000 it was reported that Robinson had "accused Peter Mandelson of lying to the Commons about the home loan affair that cost both of them their government jobs."[28][29]

He was out of the Cabinet for ten months. In October 1999 he was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, replacing Mo Mowlam. In his very first speech in the post he mistakenly referred to himself as the "Secretary of State for Ireland."[30] During his tenure he oversaw the creation of the devolved legislative assembly and power-sharing executive, and reform of the police service.

Second resignation

On 24 January 2001 Mandelson resigned from the Government for a second time, following accusations of using his position to influence a passport application.[31][32] He had contacted Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien on behalf of Srichand Hinduja, an Indian businessman who was seeking British citizenship, and whose family firm was to become the main sponsor of the "Faith Zone" in the Millennium Dome. At the time Hinduja and his brothers were under investigation by the Indian government for alleged involvement in the Bofors scandal. Mandelson insisted he had done nothing wrong and was exonerated by an independent inquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond, which concluded that neither Mandelson nor anyone else had acted improperly. The front page headline in The Independent read in part "Passport to Oblivion".[33]

At the 2001 general election Mandelson was challenged by Arthur Scargill of the Socialist Labour Party and by John Booth, a former Labour Party press officer standing as "Genuine Labour",[34] but Mandelson was re-elected with a large majority.[35] This prompted him to make an exuberant acceptance speech, which was televised live, in which he declared that "I'm a fighter, not a quitter"[1] and referred to his "inner steel".

Despite Labour success in the June 2001 general election, a third Cabinet appointment did not materialise and he indicated his interest in becoming the United Kingdom's European Commissioner when the new Commission was established in 2004. Both of Britain's Commissioners, Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten, were due to stand down. Appointment as a European Commissioner would require his resignation from Parliament precipitating a by-election in his Hartlepool constituency. His appointment was announced in the summer and on 8 September 2004 Mandelson resigned his seat by submitting his name as Steward of the Manor of Northstead.[36][37] Labour won the subsequent Hartlepool by-election with a much-reduced majority of 2,033 votes (equating to 40.7% of the vote).[38] He was succeeded as MP for Hartlepool by Iain Wright.

During the 2009 expenses scandal The Daily Telegraph raised questions about the timing of Mandelson’s second home allowance claim, dating from 2004, saying, "Lord Mandelson billed the taxpayer for almost £3,000 of work on his constituency home in Hartlepool less than a week after announcing his decision to stand down as an MP." Mandelson said in a statement, "The work done was necessary maintenance. All claims made were reasonable and submitted consistent with parliamentary rules."[39]

European Commissioner

On 22 November 2004 Mandelson became Britain's European Commissioner, taking the trade portfolio.

On 22 April 2005 The Times revealed that Mandelson had spent the previous New Year's Eve on the yacht of Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, which was at the centre of a major EU investigation, and although it did not allege impropriety, it did state that Mandelson's visit was inappropriate for a serving European Commissioner.[40]

During the summer of 2008 Mandelson had a widely publicised disagreement with Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France.[1] Sarkozy accused him of trying to sell out European farmers and appeared to blame his handling of the Doha round of trade talks for the "no" vote in the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. Mandelson said his position at world trade talks had been undermined and told the BBC he did not start the row, saying, "I stood up for myself, I'm not to be bullied." He said he believed the row was over but renewed his warnings on protectionism.[1]

In 2008 Mandelson was hospitalised, suffering from a kidney stone. At this time, melamine added to milk in China had caused kidney stones and other ailments in thousands of Chinese children, killing at least six. Ironically, during the previous week Mandelson had drunk a glass of Chinese yoghurt in front of reporters in order to show his confidence in Chinese dairy products, although his own kidney stones were unrelated.[41][42]

In October 2008 Mandelson was reported to have maintained private contacts over several years with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, most recently on holiday in August 2008 on Deripaska's yacht at Taverna Agni on the Greek island of Corfu.[43] News of the contacts sparked criticism because, as European Union Trade Commissioner, Mandelson had been responsible for two decisions to cut aluminium tariffs that had benefited Deripaska's United Company RusAl.[44] Mandelson denied that there had been a conflict of interest and insisted that he had never discussed aluminium tariffs with Deripaska.[45] On 26 October 2008 the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague claimed the "whole country" wanted "transparency" about Mandelson's previous meetings with Deripaska. In response, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Mandelson's dealings with Deripaska had been "found to be above board".[46] Mandelson said that meeting business figures from "across the range" in emerging economies was part of his brief as EU Trade Commissioner.[47] On 29 October 2008, while Mandelson was on a ministerial visit to Moscow,[48] it was alleged in the British press that Valery Pechenkin, the head of security at Deripaska's company Basic Element, had organised a swift entry visa for Mandelson when he turned up in Moscow to visit Deripaska in 2005.[49]

In October 2008 he left his post as Trade Commissioner to return to UK politics. As a former EU Commissioner, Lord Mandelson is entitled to a £31,000 pension when he reaches the age of 65 years. This however is contingent on a "duty of loyalty to the Communities", which applies also after his term in office. The Taxpayers' Alliance, which uncovered the threat to his pension, demanded that he should declare the conflict of interest and either relinquish his EU pay cheques or resign as a minister. "When one considers that his new ministerial post deals specifically with business, enterprise and regulatory reform – all areas that are intimately involved with EU legislation, regulation and policy –" the group said, "the conflict of interest is even more stark." Mandelson did not agree that he had a conflict of interests. "He has always had a clear view of British interests and how they are secured by our EU membership," a spokesperson said.[50]

Return to Cabinet

Mandelson (left) with Gordon Brown at the Progressive Governance Conference, February 2010.

On 3 October 2008, as part of Gordon Brown's Cabinet reshuffle, it was announced amid some controversy[51][52] that Mandelson would return to Government in the re-designated post of Business Secretary, and would be raised to the peerage thus becoming a member of the House of Lords.[53][54] On 13 October 2008 he was created Baron Mandelson, of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham,[55] and was introduced in the House of Lords the same day.[56]

Following his return to office, Mandelson supported the planned Heathrow expansion.[57] On 6 March 2009, environmental protester Leila Deen of anti-aviation group Plane Stupid approached him outside a summit on the government's low carbon industrial strategy, and threw a cup of green custard in his face in protest over his support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The protester was cautioned on 9 April for causing "harassment, alarm or distress".[58][59]

In a Cabinet reshuffle on 5 June 2009 Mandelson was granted the honorific title of First Secretary of State and appointed Lord President of the Council;[60] it was also announced that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills would be merged into his, giving him the new title of Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and that he would continue as President of the Board of Trade.[60][61]

Mandelson was a member of 35 of the 43 Cabinet committees and subcommittees.[62]

In August 2009 Mandelson was widely reported to have ordered "technical measures" such as internet disconnection to be included in the draft of the Digital Economy Act 2010 after a "big lobbying operation", even though the Digital Britain report had rejected this type of punishment.[63] The Independent reported that according to their Whitehall sources, Mandelson was persuaded that tough laws were needed to reduce online copyright infringement following an intensive lobbying campaign by influential people in the music and film industry.[64] The paper also reported that this included a meeting with DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen at the Rothschild family villa on the Greek island of Corfu. Mandelson's spokesperson claimed that there had been no discussion of internet piracy during the Corfu dinner and suggested that the decision to reverse Lord Carter's findings had been taken in late July before the trip. The Times reported after the Corfu meeting that an unnamed Whitehall source had confirmed that before this trip, Mandelson had shown little personal interest in the Digital Britain agenda, which has been ongoing for several years. According to the source of The Times, Mandelson returned from holiday and effectively issued an edict that the regulation needed to be tougher.[65]

In August 2011 a Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed that Mandelson had decided to approve the inclusion of technical measures, such as the disconnection of internet access, at least two months before public consultation had finished, and that he had shown little interest in the consultation. Letters from Mandelson's office document talks with Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group on 2 June 2009, and that on the following day Mandelson advised Lord Carter about the "possibility of [the Secretary of State] having a power to direct Ofcom to go directly to introduce technical measures". Mandelson made the formal announcement that technical measures, including disconnection, were to be included in the Digital Economy Bill two months later on 7 August 2009.[66]

An opinion poll conducted by the centre-left think tank Compass found in March 2009 that Mandelson was less disliked by party members than Deputy Leader Harriet Harman. This was felt to be unusual as Mandelson "historically has been unpopular among Labour members".[67] Tony Blair's assertion in 1996 that "my project will be complete when the Labour Party learns to love Peter Mandelson"[68] was seen as prophetic in late September 2009 when Mandelson was enthusiastically received at the party conference in Brighton.[69]


After the Labour Party failed to win the 2010 general election and its subsequent departure from government, Mandelson's memoirs, The Third Man: Life at the Heart of New Labour, were published in July 2010, a little over two months after leaving office.[70][71] The memoirs were subsequently criticised by Labour leadership contenders Ed and David Miliband and Andy Burnham.[72]

During this time he was appointed President of the international think tank Policy Network.

In November 2010 Lord Mandelson became Chairman of Global Counsel LLP, a consultancy firm, with the financial support of WPP, the advertising giant.[73][74] In January 2011, it was announced by that Lord Mandelson would serve as a senior adviser to the advisory investment banking firm, Lazard.[75][76] In 2013, he also joined the Board of Trustees of Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft.[77]

In May 2011 it was revealed that there was speculation that Mandelson had been approached by China to be a candidate for the leadership of the International Monetary Fund, even though Mandelson is not eligible to stand since he has not been a finance minister or headed a central bank. However, it was then speculated that Mandelson would stand to succeed Pascal Lamy as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, backed by David Cameron.

In May 2012 Lord Mandelson confirmed that he was advising Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) in selling timber products to Europe. In 2012 APP was accused of illegal logging in Indonesia and damaging the habitats of rare animals such as the Sumatran tiger. At least 67 companies worldwide, such as Tesco and Kraft Foods since 2004 and Danone since 2012 have boycotted APP.[78][79][80]

In 2013 Mandelson was appointed to the revived post of High Steward of Hull, a ceremonial position held by his grandfather Herbert Morrison in 1956–65 and defunct since 1974.[81] At the same time, the former Conservative MP Virginia Bottomley was appointed to the revived role of Sheriff of Hull.[81]

In June 2013, writing for the Progress website, Mandelson warned Labour it risked harming its election chances if affiliated trade unions continued to "manipulate parliamentary selections" as was alleged in the 2013 Labour Party Falkirk candidate selection controversy.[82][83]

In April 2014 it was reported that Mandelson had strong ties to Russian arms conglomerate Sistema.[84] The next month, it was reported by the same journalist that Mandelson would attend the 'Vanity Summit' of Vladimir Putin.[85]

Mandelson believes Labour is unelectable with Jeremy Corbyn as party leader but advises Labour Party members unhappy with Corbyn as leader to wait for Corbyn to show he is unelectable before working to replace him.[86]

Personal life

Tam Dalyell, while Father of the House of Commons, claimed Mandelson formed part of Blair's 'Jewish cabal' in May 2003. In response Mandelson said: "Apart from the fact that I am not actually Jewish, I wear my father's parentage with pride."[87]

Mandelson was until 8 October 2008 the President of Central School of Speech and Drama.[88] He was replaced in this un-remunerated post by playwright Harold Pinter, who died some weeks later.

In 1999, 2009 and 2011 Mandelson was an invited guest of the Bilderberg Group and attended the annual conferences.[89][90]

In 2011 he was guest of honour at Herbert Morrison Primary School in Vauxhall, South London. The school was hosting a special themed day in honour of Mandelson's grandfather, Herbert Morrison, after whom the school was named.

In 2006 Mandelson bought a house near Regent's Park, North London,[91] and in 2011 moved into another house near Regent's Park bought for £7.6 million.[76][92]

His long-term partner is Reinaldo Avila da Silva, from Brazil, whose relationship with Mandelson was the subject of an unofficial 'outing' on BBC's Newsnight in October 1998.[93]

Global Counsel

In 2010, Lord Mandelson and Benjamin Wegg-Prosser founded Global Counsel, a strategic advisory firm based in London. The firm provides advice for corporate strategists and senior management worldwide.

Lord Mandelson has been criticised for so far not disclosing his clients.[94]

In the media

Styles of address



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  85. "Lord Mandelson to attend Putin's 'vanity summit'". 7 May 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  86. "Lord Mandelson: Don't rush to oust Jeremy Corbyn". BBC News. 25 September 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  87. Haldenby, Andrew (4 May 2003). "Fury as Dalyell attacks Blair's 'Jewish cabal'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
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  89. House of Commons. "British House of Commons – Register of Journalists' Interests". Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  90. Skelton, Charlie (19 May 2009). "Our man at Bilderberg". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 20 August 2009. Mandelson's office has confirmed his attendance at this year's meeting: "Yes, Lord Mandelson attended Bilberberg. He found it a valuable conference."
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