TONY BLAIR shocked even his own New Labour colleagues last week by appointing his crony Peter Mandelson, the twice-disgraced former minister, to the European Commission.
Mandelson is Blair’s most trusted lieutenant. Blair’s decision to send Mandelson to Brussels is designed to stamp his authority on the Labour Party. It signals the prime minister’s determination to step up New Labour’s right wing agenda.
The mainstream media like to present Mandelson as a sinister figure who cunningly manipulates the saintly Blair.
In fact Mandelson has only one discernible talent—crawling. And Blair is only too happy to use him as a convenient fixer.
Track record of failure and sleaze
MANDELSON WAS appointed as Labour’s director of communications in 1985 by Neil Kinnock.
Mandelson oversaw Labour’s 1987 election campaigns and had a strong behind the scenes role in 1992. Both ended in failure. He became MP for Hartlepool in 1992.
Blair appointed Mandelson as minister for the Millennium Dome in 1997, promoting him to trade secretary in 1998.
But by the end of the year he had to quit in disgrace. He took a secret £373,000 personal loan from millionaire Labour minister Geoffrey Robinson. The scandal forced both him and Robinson to resign.
Blair brought Mandelson back in October 1999 as Northern Ireland secretary. But he was forced to quit again in January 2001.
This time his fall from grace was over allegations that he helped the Hinduja brothers, two Indian multimillionaires, obtain British passports in return for funding the Dome.
Snouts firmly in the EU trough
AS A European commissioner Mandelson will earn a basic salary of £144,000 per year—three times what he earns as an MP.
On top of that he will receive an annual £24,000 housekeeping and chauffeur allowance, a relocation payment of £23,000, a £7,000 entertainment allowance and travel expenses.
That adds up to a grand total of £198,000 for a year’s work. And the EU pension scheme will pay out two thirds of his final salary after he retires.
Britain’s current appointed commissioners are former Tory chairman Chris Patten and former Labour leader Neil Kinnock.
One of Kinnock’s responsibilities was to prevent fraud. But his reign has been marked by a string of sleaze scandals, notably at Eurostat, the EU statistics agency. At least £3.5 million disappeared from Eurostat’s accounts into slush funds and fake companies.
Earlier this year a report by MEPs into the affair severely criticised Kinnock for failing to control the agency’s finances or take responsibility for the scandal.
In 1999 the entire European Commission—including Kinnock—was forced to resign after an independent investigation issued a damning report on corruption and nepotism in the EU executive.