Is Labour missing Peter Mandelson's tactical skills in the current election? It is said that he is feeding in his ideas through Downing Street but that is not the same as sitting in Millbank Tower election HQ with sleeves rolled up and hands very much on the levers of power. There have been some strange misjudgements in the first week of Labour's campaign which would probably have been avoided if Mandelson had been on the spot instead of trudging the streets of West Hartlepool. One of the oddest initiatives was Monday's letter to The Times from fifty eight businessmen who said they wanted to put on record their admiration for Labour's achievement in promoting “stable economic growth and a renewed spirit of enterprise in the British people”. This was hailed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as proof that “Labour is now the party for business”. But was it? The signatories included the chairman or chief executive of only seven companies in the FTSE 100 list of top firms of whom three are Labour peers – not a very impressive catch. Predictably, The Times's correspondence columns yesterday were packed with dissenting voices from business. If Labour could not have rounded up a stronger list of supporters in the first place it would have been wiser to abandon the idea, which has now backfired. This morning's launch of the Labour manifesto should steady nerves and focus minds. Labour has the opportunity to stamp its authority on the remaining three weeks of the campaign.



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