Mandy's command performance: Was this the moment when Labour finally fell in love with him?

Lord Mandelson electrified the Labour conference yesterday with a barnstorming
speech in which he declared the General Election still ‘up for grabs’.

In his first address to the party faithful since his surprise return to cabinet, Labour’s
prodigal son insisted: ‘If I can come back, we can come back.’

The Business Secretary admitted that Labour were the ‘underdogs’ in the run-up to the election.

Rousing: The Business Secretary appealed to Labour's 'fighting spirit'

Brown and Mandelson

Hands up: Gordon Brown applauds his old enemy after his keynote address

But he said: ‘If we show the British people that we have not lost the fighting spirit and
appetite for change … then we can win and will win.’

His melodramatic performance appeared to win over even his harshest critics, with some dubbing it ‘the moment the Labour Party finally fell in love with Peter Mandelson’.

The speech – greeted with huge cheers and a lengthy standing ovation – lifted the sombre mood at the conference.

His performance eclipsed those of his cabinet colleagues and risks overshadowing the Prime Minister’s keynote address today.

To cheers, the Business Secretary announced plans to extend the Government’s popular car scrappage scheme to cover an extra 100,000 cars and vans.

Ministers allocated £300million to the scheme earlier this year, but the money is expected to run out in the next few weeks.


Harriet Harman provoked business leaders by boasting that her controversial Equality Bill would ‘set the cat among the pigeons’.

The Equality Minister said plans to force large employers to publish what they pay men and women would expose the gender pay gap.

Miss Harman added that employers who do not pay their staff equally would have ‘nowhere to hide’.

At a fringe meeting, she also attacked the ‘old boys network’ and warned that equal
rights issues should not be ‘put on the back burner’ during the recession.

Her hard-hitting rhetoric came days after John Prescott accused her of putting too much emphasis on women’s rights rather than campaigning.

The Equality Bill makes it compulsory for all companies with more than 200 employees to publish annual ‘gender pay audits’.

But business leaders say the measure, due to come into force in 2013, will create further red tape for firms when they hope to be emerging from the recession.

Miss Harman said: ‘We cannot continue to have structural pay discrimination into the
21st century and I think it will really set the cat amongst the pigeons.

Under the scrappage scheme, motorists receive a £2,000 discount to trade in cars more than ten years old for new models, with half of that coming from public funds
and the rest from manufacturers.

It is one of the few fiscal measures which has been firmly credited with boosting the economy.

Labour activists have traditionally been wary of Lord Mandelson, an arch-moderniser who is once reported to have mistaken mushy peas for guacamole.

The Business Secretary admitted that he was nervous about being invited back
into front-line politics after his previous experiences.

In a wide-ranging speech which was littered with jokes and self-deprecation, he issued an extraordinary public pledge of loyalty to the Prime Minister – dashing the hopes of Labour rebels who hoped he could be persuaded to step in and tell Mr Brown it was time to go.

Turning to the Prime Minister, he said: ‘Gordon, I’m proud to serve in your government as you lead the fightback against the global recession.

‘You will have my full, undivided attention and my full, undivided loyalty until you win that next election and beyond.’

But at the same time he warned the Prime Minister he could not hope to win the election simply by trading on past successes.

Lord Mandelson acknowledged that in the past he had made ‘enemies, sometimes needlessly’ and been sometimes too careless about the feelings of others.

But he insisted it was for one reason only: ‘I was in a hurry to return this party to where it should be – in government to help the hardworking people of our country.’

He recalled Tony Blair’s statement in 1996 that the New Labour project would be complete only when the party ‘learned to love Peter Mandelson’.

To laughter, he added: ‘I think perhaps he set the bar a little too high.’

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Labour ministers unleashed a string of personal attacks on senior Conservatives yesterday after private focus group polling suggested they should ‘go negative’ against the Tories.

Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper, Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and Chancellor Alistair Darling all used conference speeches to mock David Cameron and George Osborne for their privileged backgrounds and inexperience.

Miss Cooper led the way with a highly personal attack on the Conservative leader.

She said: 'Maybe there’s a reason why David Cameron doesn’t get the importance of training and employment support.

‘For his first job he got a royal equerry to ring up on his behalf. For his second job he got his mother-in-law, Lady Astor, to put in a good word. That’s not how people get jobs.’

The attacks mark the start of a new ‘class war’ strategy against the Conservatives. Ministers were urged to ‘go negative’ against Mr Cameron and other senior Tories after research by Barack Obama’s chief pollster Joel Benenson was presented to ministers at a political session of the Cabinet this month.


Suspected wife beaters will be banned from their own homes even if police do not press charges, Alan Johnson will announce today.

The Home Secretary will say the new Domestic Violence Protection Orders will give the partners of suspected abusers two weeks of ‘breathing space’.

Mr Johnson argues that they will protect the women from any further abuse, and prevent them having to flee the family home and seek refuge.

But the policy could also mean that men who are unconvicted or even charged with any crime could be made homeless.

At present, a suspect can be kept away from his home address only if charged with a crime, and it is made a condition of bail.

Mr Johnson’s new power – dubbed a ‘go order’ – would be made on the instruction of the police.

He will tell the Labour conference that ‘for too long it seemed to be accepted that domestic violence against women and girls was a private matter’.

Under the new rules, an order can be made following conviction for any offence and even when a defendant is acquitted.

Breaking the terms of a restraining order is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

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