Mandelson makes stunning return to British cabinet (Lead)

October 3rd, 2008 - 6:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownLondon, Oct 3 (IANS) European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, considered a key Labour strategist, is to be appointed business secretary in a stunning return to the British cabinet Friday.In other moves in Friday’s reshuffle reported by the British media, current Business Secretary John Hutton replaces Des Browne as defence secretary.

Another surprise inclusion in the cabinet is old Labour hand and former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, who is likely to be made the public face of the ruling party on policy issues, the BBC said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is also expected to announce several heavyweight “big business ambassadors”, including Vodafone chairman Sir John Bond, to underline his pro-business credentials in the midst of a global financial crisis.

Mandelson’s job as European Union trade commissioner is expected to be taken up by Geoff Hoon, the Labour chief whip.

Having given up his parliamentary seat in 2004 in order to take up the post of trade commissioner, Mandelson would have to be given a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords - the upper chamber of parliament - if he returns to the government.

Brown’s move to bring Mandelson back to London from his high-profile international job in Brussels follows a lacklustre performance by the Labour government over the past year, marked by a series of byelection defeats and opinion poll reversals.

Mandelson was among the chief architects of Labour’s 1997 general election win that overturned 18 years of Conservative Party rule in Britain and helped rebrand an ossified Left-wing party as the market-friendly New Labour.

This is Mandelson’s second comeback to the government.

Mandelson, who was a strong supporter of former prime minister Tony Blair, first resigned from the government in December 1998 when it was revealed that he had bought a London home in 1996 with the help of an interest-free loan from Geoffrey Robinson, a millionaire Labour supporter.

Robinson, who went on to become a minister under Blair, was the subject of a government inquiry but Mandelson failed to inform the public about the loan as he must under parliamentary traditions.

Brought back in 1999 as the Northern Ireland secretary, Mandelson resigned again in 2001 after allegations that he pulled strings to help fast-track a British citizenship application from Indian billionaire Srichand Hinduja.

An independent enquiry later concluded neither Mandelson nor anyone else had acted improperly.

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