Peter Mandelson is to make a shock return to the Government in Gordon Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle, it was reported today.
Mr Mandelson, currently Britain’s European Commissioner and a former NI Secretary of State, has twice resigned as a Cabinet minister under a cloud.
His return, if confirmed, would also mark the end of a feud with Mr Brown dating back more than a decade to when he supported Tony Blair to become Labour leader.
Mr Mandelson’s spokesman in Brussels refused to comment on the Sky News report.
It was not immediately clear what ministerial post Mr Mandelson had been offered by Mr Brown.
Having given up his parliamentary seat in 2004 in order to take up the post of Trade Commissioner, he would have to be given a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords if he returns to government.
His appointment would be seen as a major olive branch to Blairites in the Government still smarting after Mr Brown’s perceived put-down of their favourite — Foreign Secretary David Miliband — as a “novice”.
The move could also pave the way for Chief Whip Geoff Hoon to replace Mr Mandelson in Brussels.
The disclosure suggests that Mr Brown’s reshuffle will be more widespread than had been originally anticipated, although senior figures like Mr Miliband and Chancellor Alistair Darling are expected to retain their current jobs.
It was reported Mr Mandelson will replace Business Secretary John Hutton who will then take over from Des Browne at Defence.
Mr Brown has also to find a replacement for Limavady-born Ruth Kelly who has announced that she is standing down as Transport Secretary to spend more time with her young family.
Outside the Cabinet, Trade Minister Lord Jones of Birmingham has also said that he is leaving the Government to return to the private sector.
Derek Draper, a former adviser to Mr Mandelson who has recently returned to work for the Labour Party, said: "I think Peter will prove to be a pretty formidable secretary of state, a really brilliant contributor to the strategy of the Government and the presentation of the Government and people will look at Peter and think: 'You know what, we misjudge Peter Mandelson sometimes', and actually the strengths of Peter and the good side of Peter will come through now.
"As someone who knows him and has had my issues with him, I think he deserves this and I think he will prove to people why he deserves that place at the top table of British politics."
Mr Hutton's appointment as Defence Secretary was confirmed by former Home Secretary David Blunkett who said his friend was "very pleased".
"I've spoken to John Hutton, he is a friend of mine — I'm very pleased to still have a couple of friends in Cabinet — and he is very pleased and I think he will be an excellent Defence Secretary.”
Mr Hutton would "bat very hard" for the armed forces in difficult circumstances, he said, paying tribute to Mr Browne.
"Des had worked very hard and I think they will miss him at the Ministry of Defence. They have been very supportive of him and vice versa.
"But I do know that he has got young children and it is a hell of a job, with a family, dealing with overseas visits which is part of the stock-in trade of the Secretary of State of Defence."
He said the reshuffle would give "extra vitality" to the Government and help reverse Labour's fortunes.