Peter Mandelson was born in London in 1953, the grandson of London County Council leader and Labour cabinet minister Herbert Stanley Morrison. He studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at St Catherine's College, Oxford, and worked as a televsion producer before becoming the Labour Party's director of communications in 1985. In this role he was one of the first people in Britain to whom the term "spin doctor" was applied.
He was selected as Labour's candidate for the safe Labour seat of Hartlepool and was elected to the House of Commons at the 1992 general election. When Tony Blair became party leader in 1994, Mandelson was seen as a close ally and trusted adviser. He became one of the most controversial figures in British politics, disliked by many of his Labour colleagues as well as by political rivals. He became Labour's election campaign director for the 1997 general election which was won by a landslide. After the election he was made minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office, with responsibility for the Millennium Dome.
In 1998 he joined the cabinet as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry but on December 23, 1998 he resigned as after it was revealed that he had been secretly lent £373,000 to buy his London house by his wealthy government colleague Geoffrey Robinson, and had misled colleagues and creditors about the source of the money. During his few months in the job, he had been the centre of a great deal of media attention: the openly homosexual parliamentary columnist of The Times, Matthew Parris, had accidentally let slip during a television interview that "Peter Mandelson is certainly gay", a fact that had been an open secret at Westminster, but had not been widely publicised in the media, though some newspapers had mentioned it before. After this "outing" by Parris, the press felt free to discuss his personal life to a much greater extent. Mandelson's reputation may have been harmed rather than helped by the initial decision by BBC Director-General John Birt to ban any mention of the issue on the BBC.
In October 1999 he returned to the government as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at a time when the peace process seemed to have stalled. He oversaw the creation of the devolved legislative assembly and power-sharing executive, and reform of the police service.
Mandelson was brought down by a second scandal in early 2001. In June 1998 he had personally phoned a Home Office minister on behalf of Srichanda Hinduja, an Indian businessman who was seeking a British passport, and whose family firm was to become the main sponsor of the Millennium Dome's "Faith Zone". Mandelson was seen to have misled both the public and the prime minister about his role in the affair, and on January 24, 2001 he was forced to resign from the government for a second time, though he insisted he had done nothing wrong. An independent enquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond came to the conclusion that neither Mandelson nor anyone else had acted improperly, a conclusion that was welcomed by Mandelson and his sympathisers, and greeted with scepticism by his critics.
Mandelson is still MP for Hartlepool as a backbencher. He is Chair of the Policy Network and of the UK-Japan Group, and President of Hartlepool United F.C.