Lord Mandelson has long coveted the post of Foreign Secretary, and the current incumbent isn’t completely safe. Perhaps now is his moment?
Lord M says he instructed Cabinet ministers not to overplay Hoon and Hewitt’s plan but instead to let things blow over. David Miliband took this to extremes by taking an exceptionally long time to give a statement that didn’t actually express support for the PM.
Consequently, Miliband is unpopular because he appeared to be disloyal. Mandelson himself surely could have ended the plot earlier had he been more emphatic in his statement but he let the plot blow through and then wheeled in behind Brown on Newsnight.
Thus Mandelson remains the loyal ally and Miliband needlessly exposed himself. Lord Mandelson insists that he didn’t arm twist or persuade anyone, but if he had have, David Miliband wouldn’t have looked weak and disloyal but may have backed Brown earlier. Will the PM reward Lord Mandelson and punish David Miliband? Did allowing Miliband to stay silent benefit Brown, or was the strategy designed for something else?
This is totally unfounded, of course, but it’s fun and certainly plausible. After all, why did Lord Mandelson release such a weak statement? Why would he suggest that ministers not immediately act to quell the plot? Why didn’t he act immediately to keep Miliband on board, just as he did when James Purnell resigned last June?