Peter Mandelson delivers Masterclass
The MPP’s strategy and communication module, facilitated by McKinsey & Company, concluded on 4 October with a Masterclass from Lord Mandelson.
Lord Mandelson, a key architect of New Labour, spoke about his experiences of designing the political strategy which secured a landslide victory for the British Labour Party in 1997, and answered what he described as ‘incredibly good’ questions from the class.
For Lord Mandelson, strategy sets a direction to be taken in the face of emerging trends, but also acts as a shield against shocks in a ‘tough, rough, adversarial’ political landscape that is increasingly dynamic. Rather than a ‘spray-paint’ rebranding exercise, strategy must involve a change of the very product being offered in order to be successful. Lord Mandelson illustrated this with his own experiences of shifting the Labour party’s politics to the centre-ground in order to compete in the post-ideological electoral environment of the 1990s.
‘It was fascinating to hear directly from someone who was the architect of such an ambitious and all-encompassing political strategy- one which has had such widely felt repercussions across British politics throughout my lifetime’, said British MPP student Joe Randall. ‘One thing I found particularly interesting was his emphasis on the political environment in which strategy operates, and the different layers of decision-making and communication skills that this requires politicians and policy-makers to master.’
Echoing other speakers to have visited BSG, Lord Mandelson urged the students not just to focus on their strengths, but to look at their own weaknesses and threats, and adapt to create effective strategy in a competitive environment. ‘At the core of your success is your strategic judgment,’ he told the class. While emphasizing personal intuition as being vital to strategic judgment, he reminded students that other vital components of strategic judgment are more easily attained: experience, keeping calm, and an ability to not take things personally.
Lord Mandelson was MP for Hartlepool from 1994 – 2004, has held several Cabinet positions including most recently as Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills 2009 – 2011, and directed Labour’s 1997 election campaign. He was made a life peer by the Queen in 2008.