Sketch: Prince of Darkness rises again

By Matthew West

There’s something uniquely disturbing about Lord Mandelson. It could simply be his imperious persona. All that yes m’lord, no m’lord has obviously gone to his head. He’s probably got his eyes on a dukedom. After all, he can’t become that much more high and mighty whatever he might hope, but I bet he’d get a kick out of people having to call him ‘your grace’ everywhere he went, even if they already call him the prince of darkness.

At the Labour party press conference this morning he sat preening away while a mock up of Radio 4’s Today programme news bulletin was played over the speakers by way of introduction to the main event.

This was a good piece of theatre, no question about that, but what was more striking, and all the more disturbing because of it, was the image of his lordship sat on stage in the centre chair with minimal lighting – he, after all, was not the story – and being backlit by the screenshot Labour have clearly nicked off Microsoft’s XP screen saver. You know the one, green fields and clear blue skies.

Lord Mandelson sat serene throughout as party aides tittered at the points in the fake news bulletin that were clearly designed to be funny. All that was missing was a white cat sitting in his lap.

This was clearly Mandy’s show. The prime minister got up to make a short speech and introduce the chancellor, who also delivered a relatively short speech, accusing the Tories of being the biggest risk to the economic prosperity of the country. I was mildly surprised Window’s XP background didn’t turn dark and menacing during Alistair Darling’s speech – I’d put money on someone having suggested it.

A step too far would probably have been the argument that won through there. After all, Labour doesn’t want people thinking they’re scared of the Tories otherwise they’d have given David Cameron demon eyes a long time ago. No, no they’re in the future business don’t ya know, and the future’s bright (under Labour) it just ain’t Orange: except for Mandelson that is.

He ruled the Q&A session with an iron finger, pointing aides this way and that, making sure some bigger named journalists waited, while putting some in their place: one in particular incurring his lordship’s disapproval with a fairly innocuous comment about his own advancing years and the onset of senility.

And then it was all over. Or was it? The prime minister appeared to be happy to stay and answer more questions on the economy. “No, no you’ve got a busy day ahead,” said the dark prince. “Let’s just leave it as the day David Cameron said he would prefer a DIY government and that you’re on your own with the Conservatives.” Stage managed? Controlled? Never!!