I was at today's Policy Network Conference (http://www.progressive-governance.net/) - one of four Mandelson speeches in the UK in one month - is he planning a comeback in domestic politics?
Charles Clarke was excellent (redeeming some of his recent outbursts) with a well thought-out call for the EU to do more about tackling organised crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, and to nick some of the USA's monopoly on international crisis intervention.
Anthony Giddens provided an excellent introduction on the challenge presented to Europe by globalisation and called for the EU to tackle poverty (though Will Hutton said we should stop describing globalisation negatively as more trade will mean "a bigger cake"), Julian Le Grand called for "bambino bonds" - an EU-wide child trust fund, maybe with more cash for kids born in poorer countries.
Dennis MacShane and Geoff Hoon provided equally robust but "funny guy/straight guy" calls to arms for British pro-Europeans.
The non-Brit star was Helle Thorning-Schmidt the new and rather New Labour leader of Denmark's Social Democrats. She happens to be Neil and Glenys Kinnock's daughter-in-law.
She and many of the other non-Brit speakers talked-up the concept of flexsecurity - the idea that you deal with globalisation by doing a deal with the workforce - they have to be flexible by taking up lifelong learning and training and being prepared to change jobs, but the state guarantees a basic level of security in return.
Blair's speech was 95% spot on. He said:
"We won as New Labour. New Labour is not a new Party, though it did radically change the Labour Party. The third way was never a halfway house between conservative and progressive politics. It was certainly not a defined set of policies, though it has come to be associated with certain strong policy positions. New Labour is an attitude of mind. It may be effective in winning elections but it is based on conviction, partly about the true purpose of progressive politics, partly about how we interact with the people we seek to represent and govern. In simple political, strategic terms, it starts with a basic proposition: we face out to the people not into ourselves. We begin with their world, their reality, their hopes and expectations. And we don't compromise with understanding it. That's not to say we exist to be populist. We don't. We have to lead as well as listen. But we don't flinch from recognising where real people are. The public come first; our activists second. What does this mean? We escape the tyranny of the betrayal theory of progressive politics. This theory holds that the public want more traditional leftist policies but the leaders of the left let them down by refusing to see it. This is bulldust. The leaders are nearly always trying to align their Parties with the public whose support they need to win. And I've yet to work out how, if the public wants more traditional left-wing policies, they vote right."
"Fortunately I have no doubt that those who will take on the mantle of leading the party into the next election do indeed want New Labour to remain New Labour. This means 'new' New Labour. Standing still means falling back."
"But it is change because of new issues, new challenges; not a rejection of the past 10 years, just an acknowledgement that it is the past. The attitude of mind stays intact. This will mean going further from the comfort zone, not straying back to it."
However, the 5% about party structures was wrong, wrong, wrong and organisationally illiterate: " We should be aiming for parties that are not activist-based, though of course we need our activists.
"They should be stakeholder parties, run on far looser lines, with supporters and members co-existing together"
er no ... we need a tighter organised not looser organised party, with its structures reinvigorated and built up ward-by-ward, CLP by CLP. We need more members recruited and more members turned into activists, not Mickey Mouse supporters lists or a "virtual party".
As is usually the case, being a superb leader and high-level political strategist like the PM does not necessarily mean you have the first clue about how to do grassroots organisation...