Straw repels Evil

It's no secret that Justice Secretary Jack Straw and Secretary Of Whatever He Tales A Fancy To Peter Mandelson don't get on, and now the gloves are well and truly off.

Mandelson, who not long ago got involved in a bit of a spat with the eminently dislikable Tory George Osborne (it never came to much, but served very well at taking a bit of the flak being directed at parliament by the media after the expenses scandal) and who has been forced to resign from the House of Commons on two separate occasions, is a bit of a mixed blessing as far as Labour's top brass are concerned - he's an extremely clever politician (he was largely responsible for Labour's election win back in 1997) and always gets what he wants, so if he wants what you want and he's on your side you're onto a winner. Unfortunately, he has one very slight drawback - he's the spawn of Lucifer, the public loathe him (except those in Hartlepool, for some odd reason - they kept voting for him as their MP) and he gives the impression that sooner or later he's going to stab the entire Cabinet in the back and annex the party as his own personal kingdom.

"Argh! What fools we have been!" Jack Straw wards off The Evil One.

Now, if you're a Cabinet minister, you get paid a very tasty £144,520 per year along with all sorts of perks such as the notorious second homes allowance and, in some cases, even grace-and-favour (translation: free) accomodation; so it's no wonder that those lucky MPs who have found their way into the Cabinet are pretty damn keen to stay right where they are (though to be fair, there's an never-proven rumour that some of them want to keep their positions so they can use them in Britain's best interests). Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, while more than happy to let Mandelson prowl the Commons' corridors provided he only drank the blood of those they sought to dispose of, have both given unitentional indications that they consider him a man of whom one should be wary - which could be why Mandelson got a Life Peerage thrust upon him and was shuffled off to the House of Lords, which is the nearest British politics comes to hammering a stake through the heart and burying the body in a welded-up coffin, because unlike Hereditary Peers - who have been able to resign and contest by-elections since 1963 when Tony Benn changed the law and gave up his Viscount title so that he could stand as a socialist (becoming one of the most popular MPs in history) - Life Peers are, or have been, quite literally stuck in the position for life. This was not the first time that a figure considered dangerous by the Government has been quietly got rid of in this way.

However, as we blogged last month, the Government changed all that. In their efforts to revamp the House of Lords, which hasn't been viewed in a very good light by the electorate - who see it as an out-dated and unfair institution - for many years, they brought in new legislation which was very much the equivalent of digging the coffin up, pulling out the stake and saying "Here's my jugular, Vlad - it's party-time!"

The Devil - though he stayed put for the moment - was free to ride out anytime he chose.

Jack Straw seems to be the most worried about the nature of what Labour has unleashed upon the world, because he's just shipped in several tons of industrial strength garlic and is about to hang it from every rafter, wall, ceiling, hook and anything else in the Commons that a bulb of garlic could ever be hung on by announcing he's creating a new law that will force any Life Peer who does choose to resign to go into quarantine for five years during which they will be unable to stand for any elected position. This means that Mandelson would be in his early 60s by the time he once became eligible, close to retirement age and - since the general trend seems be for younger MPs and party leaders in particular (Menzies Campbell, ex-Liberal Democrat leader, was commonly thought to be too old even though he was just 66 when he left the position) - this could well end any chances he has of leading the party.

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