Although Lord Mandelson shares advisory duties in Number 10 with Ed Balls, an old foe, he seems less happy about the growing presence in the inner circle of Shaun Woodward, a Tory defector and now Northern Ireland secretary.
Gordon Brown rates Mr Woodward and turns to him for advice – most noticeably during prime minister’s question time. But Whitehall insiders suggest that Lord Mandelson finds the Northern Ireland secretary a doleful presence and questions his judgment.
Asked about Mr Woodward’s role, he is icily precise. “I have meetings with the prime minister and Ed Balls because Ed plays an informal role as well – as he did at the Treasury,” he says.
“But my main desire is to weld together the team of full-time staff working in central government.”
On whether he endorses the advice being offered by the Northern Ireland secretary, he replies: “I don’t know.
“What is the advice being dispensed by Mr. Woodward?”