In the news today I note that serial comeback-queen and Voodoo practitioner Peter Mandelson is attempting to become Prime Minister of the UK. Mandelson, as a life peer, is currently barred from standing in the House of Commons, under centuries old rules that say that members of one chamber in our bi-cameral system cannot simultaneously become a member of the other as well.
However, a bill is currently before Parliament which if passed would theoretically allow Life Peers to give up their peerage and thus become eligible to stand in the House of Commons. By convention, the Prime Minister of the UK has been a member of the Commons for the last one hundred years, when the then King refused to appoint a peer as PM saying it was more appropriate in modern times that he should come from the elected chamber, as opposed to the unelected Lords.
Should this bill allowing Life Peers to resign their peerage be passed? Quite probably yes. The House of Lords is an out-dated institution, destined for eventual oblivion: both main political parties are supposedly committed to its wholesale reform. It makes sense to allow its members to give up their peerages so that they can stand in an elected chamber – after all, in a few years’ time they are not going to have a chamber of their own. Moreover, one of the important disadvantages of the House of Lords is that it entrenches the notion of patronage in British politics. The majority of hereditary peers having been banned from the Lords back in the nineties, the chamber is now dominated by those who owe their seat there to the patronage of the current Government. Opposition parties are allowed to have a certain number of working peers appointed, but basically it is the Government who controls who becomes a peer and thus become a member of the Lords. Any measure that gets rid of appointees and replaces them with elected politicians must surely make Parliament more democratic.
Should, however, Mandelson himself become Prime Minister – even if it until no longer than next July? Let’s look at the record of this man:
July 1997 – Appointed Minister without Portfolio on Labour winning the general election. Given responsibility for the “Millennium Dome.” His management of the dome came in for constant criticism – Stephen Bayley, an adviser who was forced to quit by Mandelson, stated with unwitting irony: “If Mandy went down to a voodoo sacrifice in Brixton tonight, he’d come back tomorrow saying, `We must have voodoo sacrifices in the Dome’.”
July 1998 – promoted to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
December 1998 – resigned as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry over a scandal involving an interest free loan which he had received.
October 1999 – Mandelson’s boyfriend contacts Brazilian “Voodoo” * priest Jose Lima Da Silva (aka “Zezinho”) to get rid of one of his arch-rivals, Charlie Whelan. Mandelson himself adds a short note to the letter. Eight days later he returns to government as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
*Technically it is not “Voodoo” but “Candomble” – a Brazilian practice which shares enough similarities to the former for a typical British journalist to confuse the two.
February 2000 – Charlie Whelan resigns from his political career – but goes on to forge a new career in the media.
January 2001 – Mandelson resigns again after he tried to do a favour for one of the Hinduja brothers – businessmen who were then under investigation for involvement in the Bofors scandal. Coincidentally the Hindujas were principal sponsors of one part of the Millennium Dome (qv).
March 2001 – Zezinho sells his story to the Mail on Sunday. It is implied that Mandelson and his boyfriend had met Zezinho in person sometime prior to October 1999, as it was alleged that they had been present at a ceremony in Brazil where a chicken was slaughtered.
2004 – Mandelson resigns from British politics altogether to become a European Commissioner.
2008 – retires from the European Commission and becomes a Life Peer, member of the House of Lords, and Business Secretary.
June 2009 – receives additional appointments as First Secretary of State (an honorary title), and Lord President of the Council (i.e. of the Privy Council – this position is usually given to the Leader of the House of Lords).
October 2009 – alleged to be contemplating wanting to return to the House of Commons and perhaps become Prime Minister.
So what we have here is a politician who resigned twice from senior Government positions in shady circumstances, yet somehow manages to keep coming back. Perhaps supernatural forces are calling him back to power – despite Mandelson’s best effort to scupper his own political career!
In Haiti, there is a practice of fetishizing politicians who have achieved temporal power, such as the President of the United States, on the basis that they must have some “pizzazz” about them to achieve what they have done. It strikes me though that if any recent British politician deserves that kind of veneration, it would be Tony Blair, not Mandelson. After all, Blair had a solid ten years as Prime Minister and was fairly successful at it. Mandelson’s career on the other hand has been decidedly volatile and haphazard – hardly what one would call prime ministerial.
In my opinion, Mandelson’s biggest fault is not that he practiced black magick – but that he practiced black magick so badly.