By Patrick Markey
Peter Mandelson, the newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary, has been dubbed the "Prince of Darkness" and the architect of the Labor Party victory after playing a central role in the campaign to get Tony Blair into power.
Replacing Mo Mowlam as a major figure in the Good Friday peace agreement negotiations, Mandelson undoubtedly brings with him close connections to the British prime minister and a reputation for mastery of political strategy and manipulation.
Born into a stalwart Labor family — his grandfather was a Labor Cabinet minister — Mandelson soon became involved in political life.
He was later selected to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford’s St. Catherine’s College. But his star first began to rise when he was chosen to rework the Labor Party image under Neil Kinnock from 1985-90.
It is Mandelson who was credited with polishing Labor’s dour image with such innovations as swapping the Red Flag image for the Red Rose.
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Mandelson, who is 44, was elected a member of parliament to Hartlepool in 1992 and was appointed an opposition whip in 1994.
But his name became forever melded with the Blair’s New Labor strategy after he helped take the party to it’s huge victory over the Conservative Party in May 1997. Critics dismissed Mandelson’s reputation as the master political spin doctor, claiming he was more style than substance.
Taking a position of minister without portfolio in 1997, Mandelson continued to forge Labor’s media image until accepting the post of trade and industry secretary in 1998.
However, Mandelson’s rise to fame has not been without controversy. During a television news interview, a commentator described him as a homosexual, after which the BBC deleted any reference to his sexuality from its broadcasts.
His darkest hour came when the Guardian newspaper disclosed that he had failed to report taking a $600,000 loan from another Cabinet colleague. Mandelson was forced to resign from his Cabinet post, sparking the Blair government’s most damaging scandal to date.
Until his return from political Siberia, Mandelson had worked as a vice chairman of the British Council, the body which promotes British language and culture abroad.