He may be out of power but Labour’s Prince of Darkness is still attempting to pull the strings. Today’s Daily Telegraph reports that Peter Mandelson suggested to Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall that they should drop out of the Labour leadership contest in order to have the whole thing called off. One source told the paper ‘Lord Mandelson and other Blairites were saying – this is a disgrace, let’s get this thing pulled. But it was not going to happen’.
On the Today programme, Yvette Cooper gave a guarded answer as to whether there had been any contact with Mandelson. Cooper denied she had spoken to him directly, but left some wiggle room if it emerges there had been contact with her campaign:
‘I’ve not discussed this with Peter Mandelson. I gather that there was some view that maybe the whole process should be stopped because so many people were joining at the last minute. I don’t think that’s right, I think it’s a good thing that people are joining the party and it’s a good thing that we have a leadership about out future and winning the next general election.’
When pushed again, Cooper said ‘I’ve not had any discussions about this’. So did Mandelson speak to her office? ‘Not that I’m aware of, Peter is not standing in this leadership election’, arguing that his voice is ‘not really’ important in this contest. Instead, Cooper said that as ballot papers drop through letter boxes, the party should not be preoccupied with ‘process arguments amongst a small number people’.
I’ve spoken two sources in the Liz Kendall camp this morning, both of whom are denying Mandelson had any conversations with Kendall personally or anyone else on the campaign about dropping out. Team Burnham are not aware of any conversations either, although they are pleased that Mandelson’s manoeuvres reinforce the notion that Andy Burnham is the only candidate who can beat Corbyn.
From the Blairites’ point of view, halting the process until more is known about the 600,000 strong electorate is the best way to stop a hard left takeover of the party. But if Kendall or Cooper did drop out, it would look as though they are throwing their toys out of the red pram simply because the contest isn’t going their way.