Peter Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour that saw the British political party win three consecutive elections in 1996, 2001 and 2005, is among 30 politicians participating in the Leaders for Peace conference currently underway in Paris.
In the nine years since Peter Mandelson left the cabinet when New Labour, as it was called then, lost UK general elections, he has been keeping himself busy by sitting on numerous boards and playing leading roles in two think tanks.
Most recently Mandelson has been spearheading Open Britain's campaign calling for Britain to remain in the European Union. “Many more people understand now what Britain stands to lose from our membership of the European Union. I wish they had understood that at the time of the referendum,” Mandelson lamented on the sidelines of the Leaders for Peace conference.
Mandelson served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for just over a year between 1999 and 2001. Although London agreed to relinquish power to the Northern Ireland Assembly in December 1999, the region continued to be afflicted by sectarian violence between Catholic nationalists and loyalist Protestants.
There is relative peace now, but the prospect of border controls being re-imposed once Britain leaves the EU while the Republic of Ireland remains in the bloc is a major concern to the architects of the peace process, including Mandelson, “The last thing that the island of Ireland needs is a return to a hard border…especially as it would probably be exploited by political extremists.”
Labour less electable
Support for Labour is at a record high since the party was voted out of power in 2010. But party leader Jeremy Corbyn has the support of just 18 percent of voters according to a recent opinion poll. Conservative Party leader Theresa May is also suffering from record low public opinion, which is attributed to her handling of Brexit.
“He is pulling down Labour's polling performance and making Labour less electable,” according to Mandelson. But the way in which Corbyn has swung the Labour Party to the left would not be seen favourably by a man who played a key role in rebranding the party 'New Labour' in the early 1990s that in turn saw an ideological shift to the centre right.
Mandelson bore the brunt of tabloid indignation at the time. The left-wing press stressed that he had betrayed the hard left and sold out to the right in order to win votes from the Conservative Party. Mandelson remains proud of his legacy as “one of the architects of New Labour”.