This morning's Times is running a tidy little "exclusive" about the ongoing "Mandelson/Russian oligarch tale. Nathanial Rothschild, a mutual friend of Lord Mandelson and George Osborne, has written to the Times saying that the Shadow Chancellor and Andrew Feldman, chief executive of the Tory party, spent time on the Russian billionaire's yacht too, and there has been the suggestion of a proposal for an illict and illegal donation to the Tory Party from him.
Peter Mandelson spins back huh? Ahh but wait I hear you say, the article is clear that this was a letter written to the Times by someone else and it also says at the end of the article "It is understood that Lord Mandelson was told yesterday of Mr Rothschild’s intention to send a letter to The Times." Ergo, this is not a Mandelson spin job at all but merely someone coming to his aide. OK, well if that is true, then why is it that the second paragraph of the article says?
After the furore of Lord Mandelson’s stay on the same yacht, friends of the new Business Secretary have let it be known..Note the plural there? I'd say that suggests more than one person has been on the phone briefing Phillip Webster on this one, and we all know that "friends of" is a euphemism anyway. Also note the use of the phrase "it is understood"? That's a nice hedged phrase of ambiguity there should it ever come to light that Mandleson knew and/or was involved a little more than the report suggests with the letter.
Of course, the contents is interesting too as it's obvious aim is to do the whole "Tory Sleaze" thing and the classic tu quoque which is a mainstay of politics. The only problem is that with Osborne there is only a perception of a possible future conflict of interest. However, with Mandelson there is the perception of an actual conflict of interest when he was in a position of power which could be influenced.
Not that any of this matters of course, the "you too" defence is tried and tested and few will challenge it. If one side accuses the other of something and then an identical counter accusation can be made what they're really saying is "well, seeing as we both do this dodgy shit it must be OK". That's the problem with politics though.