Like Macavity, the mystery cat who is never there, Peter Mandelson seems to get the blame for all kinds of dark deeds without ever being there.
Large photographs of him and Colonel Gadaffi’s son Saif appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Times under the headline “Gadaffi hired PR gurus to con West”.
“Agencies were paid millions to promote tyrant and portray his son as a champion of human rights,” says a sub-heading next to Mandelson.
The clear implication of this juxtaposition of headlines and pictures is that Lord Mandelson was the PR guru in question.
In fact, it was an American friend of his, Peter Brown of Brown Lloyd James, and fascinating though this story is the newspaper offers no proof that Tony Blair’s former prince of spin had anything to do with it.
Three US agencies worked on salvaging the Gadaffis’ reputation. One highlighted Saif’s role in freeing western hostages and alleviating poverty in Africa. Another developed a strategy to portray his father as a thinker and an intellectual, which in the light of recent events is preposterous.
And yet until the protests began in Libya and the mad Muammar was revealed in his full awfulness one could have argued that they had done a fine job in helping to transform Libya from a pariah state to a potential world player.
All that has now ended with the gunning down of unarmed protesters, and after this no amount of reputation management can ever wash away the sins of this family.
Meanwhile Lord Mandelson’s reputation as the evil PR genius who anyone with a mission impossible might think about hiring has been further enhanced without him apparently lifting a finger.
You have to read 30 paragraphs of the Sunday Times piece before you come to a denial. Mandelson makes it clear he has never had business dealings with anyone in Libya or any involvement with Brown Lloyd James’s work there.
He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair –
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!
GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media (with apologies to TS Eliot)