Saturday, 4 October 2008

Why On Earth Mandelson?

I know the UK, like all countries in the World is facing a difficult time with the global credit crisis. I know Prime Minister Gordon Brown is not only having to tackle these issues, but seems to have been written off politically by British society despite the fact, that the Conservatives still have no policies even after their party conference this week. The Conservatives threaten to make the UK far more divided and will follow policies which will exacerbate the difficulties for average people in the UK. However, that seems to be overlooked. Another, possibly even more crucial factor that has been overlooked is that Brown lost the showdown with the energy companies. He was unable to introduce a windfall tax, despite their huge profits, because they said they would simply recoup it from consumers by raising prices so totally undermining the point of the tax. Many people will die this Winter in the UK because of the greed of the energy companies. No UK prime minister now has the ability to stop that, it was proven last month, but no-one seems to have noticed that. Now that EDF (known in its home country, France as Electricite de France has now bought British Energy Group which controls the UK's nuclear power, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has even more control over Britain's energy prices than he did last month. EDF is 85% owned by the French government. In France Sarkozy (a conservative, not a socialist) prevented Electicitie de France raising prices by more than 1.5% this year, in the UK all energy companies have raised prices by 25-34% this year. So the head ot the French government has more control over our prices, because he runs one of our leading suppliers, than Brown does.

How has Brown addressed both the issue of him having no ability to control energy prices and also struggling to face down the economic crisis? Well, he has a cabinet reshuffle and introduces a 'war cabinet', though at 18 members it is only a few people short of the full Cabinet. Traditionally war cabinets in the UK have had 6 members. He has made Ed Miliband (brother of David Miliband his glamorous rival for control of the Labour Party, and probably his successor), head of the new Department of Energy and the Environment. It is sensible to combine these two, because issues such as wind power, new coal power stations, nuclear power, all impact on both of these. However, unless regulations are tightened, or in this atmosphere of the UK government nationalising things, a leading energy company is taken over by the state (I suggest British Gas, it is the largest supplier, the greediest and it used to be state-run) there is little Ed will be able to do, certainly in terms of changing energy prices to consumers.

Again, I will emphasise that people will die. Already, even before the sharp price rises this year, Help the Aged has noted that 25,000 elderly people were dying each year in the UK as a result of being unable to heat their houses. That figure will rise sharply in the next few weeks. In every street in the UK, you will see the corpses of dead old people being carried from their houses because of the greed of energy companies in the UK.

There are 11 million elderly people in the UK, 2.5 million live in one room so they can keep warm, 2.2 million turn off their heating entirely because they cannot afford to run it; 2 million wear outside clothing indoors to keep warm. These were last year's figures which will be worse now prices have risen. It is predicted all of these figures will treble this year, so we are probably looking at 75,000 dead this Winter, equivalent to every single person living in the Scottish town of Paisley or the English town of Southport simply dying.

Sorry, my anger at that fact always distracts me. Back to the issue in hand, the reappearance of Peter Mandelson. What was going through Brown's head when he decided to bring Mandelson back into the Cabinet? Mandelson is the smarmiest character in British politics of the last thirty years. The way he talks makes your skin crawl. He is smug, very self-satisfied and everyone assumes he has abilities that he has never proven he has. At best, he is good at 'spin' altering media perceptions of challenges being faced, and I accept that Labour probably needs at a time when the media have effectively given the premiership to Conservative leader David Cameron, without him having done anything to earn it. However, Mandelson has no clear ability in economic or business issues. It would do the Cabinet far better to reanimate the corpse of former Labour leader John Smith, with his friendly bank manager demeanour, than to bring Mandelson back. My opposition to Mandelson does not stem just from his unpleasant manner and the fact that he appears on television as if he considers everyone around him to be fools unable to see the truth of his brilliance.

The other thing about Mandelson, which I feel should bar him from office whether in the UK, or in the European Commission where he has been Commissioner for Trade since 2004. Basically he is the most corrupt politician in recent British politics. In December 1998 he resigned at Secretary of State for Trade & Industry after only 5 months in the role after it had been revealed that he had been given a cheap loan for £373,000 from the Paymaster-General Geoffrey Robinson, a millionaire who was under investigation for his business dealings with Mandelson's department. As Tony Blair, for some reason, thought highly of Mandelson he came back in October 1999 as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, a very challenging role which he was highly unsuited for. Fortunately he had to resign in January 2001, so after only 14 months in this post, because he has accepted a £1 million donation from the Hinduja brothers towards the Milennium Dome (this had fallen in his remit when Minister without Portfolio before he had gone to Trade & Industry) in return for being given a British passport. This time Mandelson will be made a lord so does not have to stand for election, and will be a member of the House of Lords, so part of the parliamentary system, for the rest of his life.

Is the UK so lacking in talent that the government has to bring back a man who has been proven to be corrupt and so without talent that it is stunning; who has had only 19 months in ministerial positions? Is there no-one else in the UK who could feel this role, as least as well, if not a great deal better? Mandelson is not even popular within the Labour Party, probably because of these major flaws in him and the fact that he was never nothing more than a smarmy crony to Tony Blair. Send him off to be Blair's assistant or his butler; do not bring him into British parliament for the next 10-20 years. Mandelson was born in 1953 so could still easily be in House of Lords in 2028 if not 2038! Why has Brown shackled our government to this despicable, incapable man? After it seemed he was recovering some ground on the clueless Conservatives, he has now given his government a self-inflicted injury. Drop Mandelson now before he damages this country any further.

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