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Manual The Third Man: Life at the Heart of New Labour

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To give you the best possible experience this site uses cookies. Using this site means you agree to our use of cookies. View cookies policy. Zoom Zoom. Availability Usually despatched within 2 weeks. With David Cameron in power and a full-scale Thatcherite assault under way on the welfare state, working class living standards and the public sector unions, it is easy to forget just how right wing New Labour was.


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Well, fortunately, two of the architects of New Labour, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, together with their loyal ally John Prescott, have rushed into print to remind us. The three memoirs are very different in tone. Prescott is pathetic: his career has culminated with this proudly working class man joining the ermine vermin and becoming a baron.

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Prescott is not sure whether to be pleased with or ashamed of himself. Mandelson, another baron, leaves the reader knowing as little about who he is, what be believes in and what he has been up to than he or she did before they opened the book. And then with Blair, one confronts full-blown megalomania. No House of Lords for him—he is one of the Masters of the Universe, an honorary member of the American ruling class. Nevertheless, these memoirs are useful for providing some insight into the state of the Labour Party and the politics of the New Labour governments, into the way in which they developed their own brand of Thatcherism, thereby preparing the way for the coalition.

What is also clear from the Blair and Mandelson memoirs is that they are attempting to construct a Blairite narrative whereby Labour lost the general election because it was not right wing enough, or as they both put it, was no longer really New Labour. This is, of course, a travesty, but one that can potentially weaken the fight against the coalition.

It has to be challenged. But there is a delightful irony in the fact that it was almost certainly the publication of the Blair and Mandelson memoirs and the bad memories they revived that cost their anointed heir, David Miliband, the leadership of the Labour Party. There is an old joke, nearly as old as the Labour Party, about a working class Labour politician who had abandoned all of his principles except his belief in the emancipation of the working class, but only one at a time and with him first.

Mandelson on Judaism, Lord Levy and his JC dad - The Jewish Chronicle

Whoever first coined this gem could have had John Prescott in mind, although to be fair it does not refer to an individual, but to a particular Old Labour type, to the Old Labour traitor. Is this unfair to Prescott? Prescott famously failed the plus and to his credit became a staunch defender of comprehensive education, although this was not to stop him from serving as deputy prime minister in the government that began dismantling the comprehensive system. He went out to work at 15, working as a steward in the Merchant Navy. In the early s he became involved in a rank and file revolt against the cosy relationship that existed between the National Union of Seamen now merged into the RMT and the employers.

Prescott came from a respectable Labour background. His father was a Labour Party councillor, a justice of the peace, and a full-time official in the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association. It does seem that by his early 20s he was already thinking of a career as a union official himself. Consequently his attitude towards the National Union of Seamen was that it should be reformed, with men like himself taking over, whereas the rank and file revolt was driven by rage. In his memoirs Prescott spends more time trying to distance himself from the militants than he does exploring the injustice and oppression they were revolting against.

He is clearly rewriting the past from the respectable position he occupies today. In he went to Ruskin College and from there to Hull University, where he did a degree. Prescott, who likes to present himself as an plus failure, altogether spent five years in full-time higher education on a full grant and without paying fees. While he was a student he continued his involvement with the seamen and with the local Labour Party. This was his finest moment. He was still thinking in terms of a career as a full-time official, but in November he was adopted as Labour candidate for Hull East. At this time he occasionally bought Socialist Worker.

Becoming an MP was to change everything. And, of course, he had to cope with how attractive he was to women. What of New Labour?


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He was the Judas goat that led the party membership unsuspectingly along the road to New Labour. What is clear from his memoirs is the extent to which he personally had moved to the right.

He proudly claims to have invented public-private partnerships, a policy that he complains the Conservatives stole. For Prescott, it was all about being loyal to Tony and he shows not the slightest concern with the issues raised by the conflict. He was still the old John though. Indeed, his happiest times in office were when he had his old mates from his seafaring days down to Dorneywood for Christmas.

Prescott orchestrated their eventual defeat but only after a bitter dispute. Some people can be so unfair though:. His son was a fireman out on strike. One interesting point worth noticing is the extent to which the changes in the Labour Party that Prescott helped make possible mean that no one like him will ever become an MP again, let alone a minister. The idea that a trade union militant could win adoption for a safe Labour seat is inconceivable today.

What do the authors of the other two memoirs make of Prescott? At the party conference in September the man who in many ways embodied everything most contemptible about New Labour, and its embrace of the rich, received a standing ovation. Mandelson had, like Prescott, come from a Labour background. What Mandelson, together with Blair and Brown, set out to do was to transform the Labour Party, to have it embrace Thatcherism.

Of course it all ended in tears, with not one but two resignations. One would, as Oscar Wilde put it, need a heart of stone not to laugh. Mandelson claims to have had serious reservations about the Iraq war and there is no reason to doubt him.

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On one occasion he writes of an impatient Blair accusing him of spending too much time talking to George Galloway! He was the man who acted as the go-between for New Labour and the ruling class. The circles Mandelson moved in are absent from his pages, except for one occasion when it is impossible not to mention them. We would never have known about this if George Osborne, also present, had not tried to make political capital out of it.

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Mandelson gives the impression that he barely knew Deripaska, but in fact he had been introduced to him by Nat Rothschild as early as October One can rest assured, however, that while Mandelson was rubbing shoulders with the super-rich he was thinking of the people of Hartlepool. To be fair, it was not just Mandelson but New Labour that embraced the new Russian super-rich, welcoming them to Britain. Mandelson obliquely acknowledges how little he is going to reveal in the title of his memoirs, The Third Man.

As it is, no one better exemplifies New Labour than Peter Mandelson, a man eager to be of service to his friends, the super-rich. Which brings us to Blair himself. His is very much a memoir intended to establish his place in history as a great man. In fact what he has produced is an exercise in amoral megalomania, characterised by often execrable prose, sometimes revealing more than he intended.