Stazjia’s Commentary

Did Peter Mandelson get a great birthday gift?

Posted on: October 22, 2008

It was Peter, now Lord, Mandelson’s birthday yesterday and it looks like either he personally got his revenge or somebody decided to give him a birthday present he’d really like – dropping George Osborne (see picture, standing) in deep trouble.

The story is this, for those who haven’t followed it: Conservative shadow Chancellor George Osborne, David Cameron’s great friend (sitting in picture) and fellow posh boy, leaked it to a journalist that, in August this year, Mandelson had stayed with Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, on his yacht moored by the Greek island of Corfu. Unfortunately, Mandelson was European Union (EU) trade commissioner. At the same time, George Osborne was staying first in a rented house nearby then with Nathan Rothschild in his villa close to the yacht’s mooring.

When Osborne leaked Mandelson’s holiday accommodation arrangement, the implication was clear – Mandelson was laying himself open to a charge of being influenced by the Russian billionaire to favour his companies in dealings with the EU. To make it worse, the report suggested Mandelson had “dripped pure poison” about Gordon Brown. The leaks occurred just after he’d joined Gordon Brown’s Cabinet – not great timing for his Lordship but the Tories (Conservatives) thought it was ideal on the principle of hitting two birds with one stone – Mandelson and Brown.

Yesterday, here in the UK, we woke up to news that Osborne had had several social meetings with the friendly Russian oligarch during their stay in Corfu. Not only that, but it had been discussed how the billionaire could make a significant contribution to Tory Party funds. The stumbling block is that it’s illegal for political parties here to accept donations from foreign residents or companies. As luck would have it, Oleg Deripaska owns a company registered here, Leyland Daf, and it is suggested that there was a discussion if this could be used to channel the gift to the Conservatives.

Apparently, Rothschild was outraged that Osborne leaked conversations from a private dinner to the press and so he has leaked against Osborne in revenge. Here is part of the letter Rothschild sent to The Times newspaper.

…I am surprised that you focus on the fact that one of my guests, Peter Mandelson, is a friend of another, Oleg Deripaska. Not once in the acres of coverage did you mention that George Osborne, who also accepted my hospitality, found the opportunity of meeting with Mr Deripaska so good that he invited the Conservatives’ fundraiser Andrew Feldman, who was staying nearby, to accompany him on to Mr Deripaska’s boat to solicit a donation. Since Mr Deripaska is not a British citizen, it was suggested by Mr Feldman, in a subsequent conversation at which Mr Deripaska was not present, that the donation was “channelled” through one of Mr Deripaska’s British companies. Mr Deripaska declined to make any donation. I mention this because it turns out that your obsession with Mr Mandelson is trivial in light of Mr Osborne’s actions. I also think it ill behoves all political parties to try and make capital at the expense of another in such circumstances. Perhaps in future it would be better if all involved accepted the age-old adage that private parties are just that.

The Conservatives issued a rebuttal but today, in the House of Commons, Gordon Brown went on the attack. He said, “This is a very serious matter and I hope it is investigated by the authorities.” Both posh boys, Osborne and his leader David Cameron, looked very uncomfortable. Of course, as nothing happened, no money changed hands, so nobody actually committed an illegal act therefore they don’t have much too worry about. It just looks very bad and maybe reminds us of the bad old days of Tory sleaze.

Photographs of Lord Mandelson taken yesterday show him smiling merrily obviously delighted that George Osborne was getting a taste of his own medicine. I bet he didn’t have a better birthday present than that.

Watch Lord Mandelson taking his Seat in the House of Lords

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