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Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham is up to his old tricks.

Every now and then the withdrawal symptoms become distressingly apparent as he drifts ever further from the centre of British politics.

The fact is, his lordship craves influence and attention like most people crave oxygen, so he gets occasional relief from his torment by coming out with observations just outrageous enough to have the public spotlight turning languidly in his direction.

During these moments, he also enters a state of deluded amnesia.

This enables him to forget he was once a leading member of the Labour government which guided this country into a state of financial jeopardy so severe it has no hope of recovering for years to come.

This is why he feels able to criticise the likes of Gordon Brown and Ed Balls as if he were some towering presence to whom no blame can be attached.

It is no coincidence that Mandelson has decided to pipe up within a day or two of comments made by his partner in slime, Tony Blair.

The former prime minister – who now looks like the product of an unlikely coupling between David Dickinson and Charles Hawtrey – has recently spoken out in favour of ‘free schools.’

This is a policy beloved of the Conservatives and loathed by Labour – and his support is guaranteed to incense the two Eds.

But that is the intention, of course, because Mandelson and Blair were beginning manoeuvres to have David Miliband installed as party leader before the next election.

They know victory is there for the taking in 2015 – but they would prefer their old party not to have to share government with the Liberal Democrats.

Miliband senior’s decision to abandon Westminster for more lucrative pastures in New York would have been seen as a setback by most – but not Mandelson.

‘Oh,’ he said airily upon hearing the news, ‘never say never. I wouldn’t say goodbye to David Miliband forever in British politics.’

It sounded more like a command than a simple observation.

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