As Peter Mandelson continues his whirlwind tour of television and radio studios to deny he is – undeniably - running the country, details have emerged of an explosive deal he struck with Gordon Brown before he made his shock return to the cabinet last October. A transcript of a taped meeting between the two has been passed to Rhubarb Grumble.
The events have eerie echoes of the infamous meeting between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the London restaurant Granita, although this time, instead of a swanky diner, it took place in the insalubrious surroundings of a fast food restaurant in Slough.
The Blair-Brown meeting followed the death of the former Labour leader John Smith in 1994. Over dinner Brown agreed not to challenge Blair’s leadership bid, on the proviso Blair would hand over power in the future.
Here, in a Rhubarb Grumble World Exclusive, we can sensationally reveal how Brown tempted Mandelson back to frontline politics with a similar promise that he would ensure that P.M. does indeed become P.M.
September 2008. McDonald’s, Slough: The tape begins with the sound of rustling paper and scraping chairs in the foreground, and the sound of chatter and teenagers talking loudly in the background.
Gordon Brown: Hi Peter, thank you for coming. Take a seat. I got this for you. I thought you might be hungry. (There’s more rustling.)
Peter Mandelson: A Happy Meal. Well, I don’t know how to thank you Gordon. I must say that’s an interesting, um, look you’ve gone for today.
GB: The beard? It’s false. I couldn’t take any chances on being recognised.
PM: I see. Pink is rather an unusual colour to choose if you were hoping to go unnoticed.
GB: It’s the only colour I could get at short notice. Look Peter, we haven’t got much time so I’ll get straight to the point. I want you to return to the Cabinet.
PM: I see. I must say I’m rather surprised.
PM: The fact that we loathe each other to the very core of our beings rather seemed to preclude my serving in your Government.
GB: I don’t loathe you Peter. (A strange sound is heard on the tape at this point, like a chimpanzee vomiting popcorn.)
PM: Don’t try to laugh Gordon. This is me you’re taking to. I know you don’t find anything in the least bit amusing apart from seeing your enemies humiliated and then destroyed. That much we have in common. So spare me the bull-ordure and cut to the chase: what’s in it for me?
GB: Isn’t a Cabinet position enough: a chance to be back in the thick of things?
PM: Frankly no. You bring me here to this…this fetid church of the unwashed dressed like a mad tramp. You’re desperate Gordon. I know it; you know it. The teenager at the table behind us who appears to be at least 65 per cent simian knows it. Make me an offer I can’t refuse or I’ll take my McNuggets and leave now.
GB: Okay, okay. Here’s the deal. If you come in now, you’ll get a peerage, a top job, I’ll gradually expand your brief and – if you help me win the next election – I’ll….I’ll….I’ll
GB: I’ll resign. (The tape picks up another strange noise. It sounds like a dog with a broken jaw attempting to chew a large rubber ball.)
PM: Hey, hey, Gordon. Come on now. Don’t upset yourself.
GB: I’m sorry Peter. I’ve just been so useless as Prime Minister. I’d waited so long and done everything in my power to force that (inaudible words – sounds of fists hitting the table) Blair keep his side of his bargain and pass the reigns to me, and now I have them I don’t know what to do. I can’t even say ‘solutions’ properly without making it sound like it has four syllables.
PM: Yes, and you do that weird thing with your mouth as well.
GB: I know, I know. To tell you the truth Peter I’m up to my frigging eyeball with it. I’d pack it in today but I’d go down in history as the worst Prime Minister ever.
PM: Well, that would be an achievement of sorts; we’ve had some pretty poor PMs recently.
GB: Don’t try and make me feel better Peter. The poll ratings are dreadful. Anyone would think I was some sort of socially awkward, pathologically deceitful weirdo.
PM: You’re doing the mouth thing again.
PM: So what are you saying? You’d resign; then what?
GB: You’d take over.
GB: No, hear me out. I know you’re despised by many, most..
GB: …well okay, by everyone in the party. I realise most Labour MPs would rather Satan himself was their leader than you....or even Jimmy Carr! I acknowledge that many would rather be sent on a 12-month fact-finding mission to Helmand Province than have to work under you but these are not insurmountable problems.
PM: This is ridiculous. You’d need someone even more Machiavellian and cynical than me to pull this one off.
GB: I know. He should be here any minute.
(We hear the sound of a door opening, footsteps approaching and a chair scraping on the floor.)
PM: Well, well, Alistair! Good to see you! Nice beard…