Senior Labour figures believe that Peter Mandelson’s role in
appointing M&C Saatchi to promote Britain’s millennium celebrations
played a part in his failure to win election to Labour’s national
executive committee this week.
One aide of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said: ’Calling in Maurice
Saatchi went down very badly in the party. People couldn’t understand
why a Labour Government was rewarding the man behind the ’demon eyes’
The controversy surrounding M&C Saatchi’s appointment blew up in August
when Mandelson, the minister without portfolio, was ’minding the shop’
while Blair was on holiday.
Allies of Blair are convinced the move, criticised by some Labour MPs,
cost Mandelson votes in his battle with the left-winger, Ken
Livingstone, for a seat on the NEC. Livingstone beat him by more than
15,000 votes at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton this week.
Meanwhile, Mandelson has defended the decision to recruit M&C Saatchi,
saying it was taken not by him but by the New Millennium Experience
Although he is the company’s sole shareholder, he said the appointment
was made by the board.
Mandelson also denied that the involvement of the M&C Saatchi founding
partner, Bill Muirhead, in the Millennium Commission had helped the
agency land the pounds 16 million account.
’If anything it was a disqualification, not a qualification,’ he
’It meant the agency had to jump higher hurdles.’