According to the Spectator’s literary editor, Peter Mandelson wrote the most
boring book review ever published by the Spectator. I imagine he did. You don’t read the Mandelson memoir; you wade through it in leaking gum boots.
The lack of illumination is nothing compared to the faceless prose. Mandelson cannot evoke the personality
of Alan Clark’s or Chris Mullin’s diaries. Form is crucial in that memoirs justify and diaries observe. Clark’s love of Mrs Thatcher and his self-importance match Mandelson’s love
of Blair and his preening conceit that there was a ‘Third Man’ at the heart of New Labour’s tenure in office – Mandelson spent most of it in exile. But while Clark rails against
‘pinkish toff w*****s like Charlie Morrison who have been frozen out by the Lady’, Mandelson gives only grey innuendo. On the Blair Brown feud:
‘The unbridled contempt that some people around Gordon had for Tony and those who worked for him was very destructive. They were constantly winding him up — partly because
that’s what they felt, partly because that’s what they thought he wanted to hear.’
He doesn’t name names. He doesn’t express his anger. He gives you no sense of his personality beyond his frustration that the New Labour Trinity was not united, and
suggesting who might be responsible. It reads like an unattributed briefing, the work of a spin doctor not a writer. But Mandelson is the era’s greatest spinner and Ed Balls can’t play
him. Balls has been on air this morning denying that he ran an insurgency against
Tony Blair. Well, Ed, no one accused you.