The Unconventional Minister

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9780140288452: The Unconventional Minister

Geoffrey Robinson has been one of the most powerful figures behind the rise of New Labour. Here, he reveals what life in the corridors of power is really like. He details the wranglings between Cabinet members, the fights over budgets, welfare, films and the royal yacht, in which Robinson was a key player. Of course, here is also the full story of his #373,000 home-loan to Peter Mandelson, which led to the downfall of both - and was the first sign that the Prime Minister's right-hand man had an Achille's heel.

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Review:

Having waited nearly two years to break his silence over a £373,000 home loan to Peter Mandelson, former Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson chooses to deliver his retaliatory blows with a defiantly rosy velvet glove. "Geoffrey's Revenge" is a curiously drab, equivocatory affair, that claims to be constructive, but actually sings a familiar New Labour ditty of factionalism and (moral) debt settling. Chapters on Individual Savings Accounts, Jaguar, Capital Gains Tax, the single currency, scrapping the Royal Yacht and Coventry City Football Club hardly tingle the palate, even in such a relatively modest book. The meat is The Mandelson Affair, which forced both of these "fairly exotic personalities" to resign. It forms the opening chapter, albeit covering only 16 pages, and after the anticipation, it is inevitably anticlimactic to read the similarity of Robinson's account to Mandelson's, apart from the matter of who suggested the loan. As both were amenable to the arrangement, it seems an undignified squabble over semantics, exacerbated by Robinson not being invited to the house-warming. For Robinson, Mandelson "remains a destabilising influence between the prime minister and his chancellor", as shown in a damning passage slipped into a chapter on the Euro, in which he mischievously calls Mandelson's book, The Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver?, a "primer for sixth-formers". DTI investigations into his business affairs, his relationship with Robert Maxwell, a questioned offshore trust and a failure to register interests are all briskly dealt with, but there is no mention of the claim in Andrew Rawnsley's Servants of the People that Robinson was pressured by Blair into selling the New Statesman to Robert Harris, or that Gordon Brown, his erstwhile champion, actually wanted him sacked over the DTI investigations.

Whether the convivial Robinson will be re-admitted to the outer-inner circle for New Labour's curtain call remains to be seen, but already Tony Blair is making encouraging noises. It's a fair bet that Robinson will be back in Government before this slim memoir reaches paperback, or else there may be an additional chapter or two of the episodes reputed to have been withheld. The lesson would seem to be: always invite your creditors, however unconventional, to the party. --David Vincent

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Robinson, Geoffrey
Published by Penguin UK
ISBN 10: 0140288457 ISBN 13: 9780140288452
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M and N Media
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