Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lord Mandelson: What a charming guest he is

There is nothing, nothing at all, profoundly undemocratic about Peter Mandelson having a delicious dinner paid for by David Geffen and Steven Spielberg and then suddenly demanding that something must be done about internet filesharing.

After all, any one of us could buy Mandelson lunch and have him change the emphasis of government policy as a result, right? I hear that for a Pret A Manger sandwich and a soup, you can get the positioning of letter boxes in Slough changed; throw in a Krispy Kreme donut for desert and Mandelson will look in to having planning law changed to let you put a dormer window in your greenhouse.

Mandelson is denying that there is any link between his having a gorgeous, slap-up meal on the copyright lobby and the sudden ordering of officials to draw up what The Sunday Times call "draconian" plans:

A Whitehall source said: “Until the past week Mandelson had shown little personal interest in the Digital Britain agenda. Suddenly Peter returned from holiday and effectively issued this edict that the regulation needs to be tougher.”

A spokesman for Mandelson refused to comment on the planned internet clampdown. “Work has been ongoing on these issues for a matter of weeks,” he said. “Lord Mandelson does not believe Digital Britain is even on David Geffen's radar. There was no discussion on this with Geffen.”

Of course, it might all be a wonderful, magical coincidence - on a par with finding the face of Herbert Morrison on a slice of toast - but the denial doesn't actually give much confidence, as a response to 'did you allow Geffen and ET-boy to make Her Majesty's Government policy' which says 'I don't think David Geffen has even heard of the Digital Britain report' isn't really a denial, is it?

But let's take Mandelson's spokesteam at their forked-tongue word for a moment, and assume that Mandelson's department had been working "for weeks" on policy relating to copyright. What would that make Mandelson's decision to go off and have an evening being wined and dined by two people with a direct interest in those policies? If he had come back and started the process, that would make him look easily bought; if he had already been working on it when nipping off to eat Geffen's goat's cheese terrine, that makes him guilty of a terrible misjudgment.


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