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The yacht

Lord Mandy….

Corfu harbour – Venetian Fortress in background

As regular readers to this spasmodically updated blog will know, I live most of the year in Corfu.

How I ever got to that magical paradise is a story in itself – one of synchronicity, confusion and romance – but that’s a tale for another day, not today.

Today, after a trip to the best independent bookshop in London, Daunts, as I sat in autumn sunlight in Marylebone High Street (see photo), consuming a Moroccan vegetable soup (by the way Morocco features in the synchronistic tale that I’m not telling today) and almond bread with blue cheese…..yummy……I read the lead story in the midday edition of the Evening Standard: “Russian Tycoon linked to top Tories”.

And of course this link – like the one that has been covered in detail over the past few weeks – featuring the newly elevated Peter Mandelson (now Lord Mandelson of Hartlepool and Foy), and his links with Russian aluminium (and other things) billionaire Oleg Deripaska, all hinges on what did, or did not take place, and what was said, or not said, on a yacht, in Corfu harbour a few months ago….at a party to celebrate the Russian’s birthday.
The story is confusing……
This latest twist has George Osborne – shadow chancellor – allegedly requesting a deviously routed donation from the Russian oligarch, to Conservative party funds, to avoid the rules that prevent foreigners from donating to British political parties (allegations strenuously denied by Conservative Central Office).
The allegation arises via a letter to The Times, from Nat Rothschild (who has a home in Corfu, and who was hosting both (the then) Mr Mandelson, and Mr Osborne and family) – whose previous playboy image has been transformed of late after he has used strong contacts with people, such as Mr Deripraska, to craft a large fortune for himself (on top of whatever crumbs might eventually come his way via the vast Rothschild empire).

The allegation in the Standard report suggests that this tale of Tory intrigue, smacks of revenge, with hallmark traces of the devious black arts as practised by the newly elevated, ex-European Trade Minister.
After all it was Osborne who recollected Mandelson speaking of his newly re-befriended boss Gordon Brown (also known by some as the saviour of the universe) in terms most bitter and poisonous, on that same yacht, in the same calm waters of Corfu harbour……..

To quote The Standard:
“Lord Mandelson’s friends were furious with Mr Osborne because they believe he leaked recent disclosures of the minister’s close friendship with Mr Deripaska, who benefited when Lord Mandelson, as European Trade Minister, scrapped EU tariffs on his aluminium imports. The minister was also angry that Mr Osborne leaked private conversations in which he allegedly “dropped poison” about Gordon Brown during a dinner in Corfu. Today’s claims about Mr Osborne also overshadowed new disclosures about the Mandelson-Deripaska links, including that they had dinner in January 2005, much earlier than previously admitted and, crucially, before the tariff decision was taken. It is pretty obvious that this is Mandelson’s revenge,” said an ally of Mr Osborne. “It is nothing more than Mandelson getting up to his old tricks.”

Suspicion of intrigue and double-dealing emerge from the whole story:
– Did Mandelson speak ill of Brown?
– Why did Brown bring Mandy back into the fold, rescuing him perhaps from a scandal in Brussels if his alleged favours to Russian aluminium importers were investigated (something now underway). One report has it that when offered a return to UK politics by Brown, Mandelson “practically bit off the arm holding out the offer”, so keen was he to escape Brussels.
– Why did Nat Rothschild turn on his old drinking chum from university days, George Osborne, and write this letter?
– What really happened in Corfu, and why?

We may never know the truth, but my goodness what a tale, and what a place for it to happen!