One constant refrain from those unconvinced by the shiny new Tories is the lack of experience among their top team. The reason that Gordon Brown’s œno time for a novice line resonated so compellingly is that, for some, Cameron and Osborne do represent a couple of fresh-faced schoolboys unused to operating at the highest level. And the Tories are finding out today that you shouldn’t pick on one of the biggest boys in the playground and think you’ll get away with it.
For Peter Mandelson is certainly no novice. Mandelson has recently been the target of a George Osborne-led smear attempt, based on private conversations between the two men and, more recently, his links with a certain Russian oligarch.
But what a counter-punch this morning, with third parties alleging dodgy links between Osborne and the very same oligarch. The story is as yet pretty murky (and the Tories adamantly deny the allegation), but it does appear that Peter Mandelson’s fingerprints are all over this one (see Theo’s post below).
There are a couple of instant lessons from this. First, it throws into stark relief the observation that we’ve not seen such impressive political jujitsu from Labour since well the days of Mandelson and Campbell. If reports that Tony Blair was also involved are to be believed, this really is a lesson in political black-ops from the original masters – the current comms team in Number 10 should be taking notes.
More importantly, the facts are in a way already pretty irrelevant. Although the spinning and counter-spinning are in full flight, and the lawyers are being consulted, the sight of James Landale reporting breathlessly from outside CCHQ while œConservatives forced to deny oligarch donation flashes across the BBC ticker means that the political battle is already won. Sleaze allegations may tarnish all parties, but the Tories have most to lose given their platform of change and David Cameron’s pledge of œa new politics. Could this be another small sign of a Labour resurgence? Will it embed the œnovice narrative in the public mind? Questions for another day but for now, from political junkies everywhere: welcome back, Peter.