Business Secretary Lord Mandelson may think he is a smooth operator when it comes to mixing with politicians, but to the rest of the world he often lacks depth. He may have blown his position on the directors of Phoenix Ventures by commenting on the procedures that may be taken against them. He says work has begun to disbar the Phoenix Four - John Towers, Peter Beale, John Edwards and Nick Stephenson - from running companies in the future.
"If they themselves don't voluntarily disbar themselves by going to Companies House and signing an undertaking- a binding undertaking that will disqualify them - then I will initiate proceedings in the courts to do so," he said.
But why would they want to spare the inconvenience of court proceedings by doing so? I can't think of a reason, so one has to consider why Mandelson would ask them to do so, and the only conclusion that comes to mind is that Mandelson doesn't have much of a case against them. After all it is for the courts and not the Secretary of State to decide whether any of the directors are unfit to serve as directors again. Neither the fact that directors paid themselves large salaries nor the fact that the Secretary of State doesn't like them mean that they will necessarily be disqualified.
If Mandelson was playing a strong hand, he wouldn't have blinked.