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Labour's revival was not the work of Mandelson alone

PETER MANDELSON is, without question, a brilliant political organiser. He has a first-class mind, albeit too beam-focused. When I first knew him, in his role as a television producer working with Brian Walden's Weekend World programme, Mandelson was one of the most assiduous, well-informed and structured operators in the Walden system. He was one of the reasons why that programme was so good. I make these points to emphasise that I am not among his reflex-action detractors.

But Jackie Ashley's claim ("The fall of Mandelson", 29 January) that the transformation of the Labour Party from the "dark days of the mid-1980s is almost entirely down to Mandelson's genius is absurd. His contribution was important, but please, let us have some sense of proportion. What about the remarkable contributions of John Smith (about whose role we now hear far too little); of Neil Kinnock, who bore the brunt of the rebuilding without which Tony Blair would not be where he is; and of a whole range of people working at Walworth Road and throughout the country, unnamed, unsung, working to rebuild the Labour Party (and the trade unions) amid the wreckage and the destructive power of Thatcherism?

The myth has grown and been encouraged that it was, somehow, all due to a magical performance by one individual (Mandelson) whose insight, perception and psychological understanding of the mood of the British people were unique. Such grotesque over-hype does no one any favours, and clearly has not helped Peter Mandelson himself to contain his hubris.


London NW7

Avoid the ads

JOHN LLOYD'S article on advertising ("Come on: look at me!", 29 January) is too generous in granting yet another puff to those agencies and their clients whom he names, as well as too defeatist, giving the impression that there is little we can do about the adverts' visual and linguistic pollution.

We can and should resist most forms of advertising by leading what Quakers call a simple life, by practising the skills of ad-voidance and by taking measures to subvert the propaganda peddled by those in any way connected with this squalid trade.


Norwich, Norfolk

Irish fiction speaks truth

LES REID' s letter criticising Ronan Bennett (29 January) is littered with historical inaccuracies. First, Sinn Fein has always insisted that it has no argument with Protestants in the north of Ireland, but wants to see the British leave. This line has been consistent from the days of Michael Collins -- the era when Rebel Heart is set -- to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness today. What's more, it is a line stretching back to the United Irishmen movement, which included many Protestants.

Second, the criticism of Bennett's treatment of northern Protestants does not stand up to scrutiny. If anything, Bennett has understated much of what was going on in this period. What, for example, of the brutality of the Black and Tans?

It is a sad indictment of the media coverage of events in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years that it has fallen to the field of drama and films such as Michael Collins, Some Mother's Son and now Rebel Heart to offer a glimpse of history to a public that has been largely hoodwinked.


London E11

A Catholic line on creatures small

CRISTINA ODONE did not attempt to distinguish between the use and the abuse of animals in her comment on the Huntingdon Life Sciences controversy (29 January).

Speaking of animals at a public audience in 1990, Pope John Paul II declared that "men must love and feel solidarity [my italics] with our smaller brethern" He went on to say that they "merit respect" and are "as near to God as men are". This was reported in the Catholic Times of 9 July 2000.

Drug testing on animals to save both human and animal life is still approved of by a reluctant majority of British people. …