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Paper Monitor

10:46 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

One figure dominates the newspapers, in coverage almost bordering on the obsessive.

He has granola and green tea for breakfast and has the initials PM.

Before readers wonder if this is to be a smug, self-referencing vanity column, Paper Monitor can rule itself out by announcing it has a non-gender-specific breakfast cereal in the mornings.

Another minor difference is that the person in question is running the country.

Peter Mandelson is all over the headlines, taking on the EU in the Times, returning from holiday in the Indy and saving the country in the Express.

But it is his portrayal by two papers in opposing political camps that is quite - well, how would the man himself put it - delicious. So here it is in bite-sized chunks.

The Guardian's feature writer Decca Aitkenhead - who interviewed Chancellor Alistair Darling a year ago, and generated some uncomfortable headlines for him as a consequence - now turns her attention to the Business Secretary (among other job titles).

She quickly falls under his spell.

"His skin is dewy, as fresh from a spa facial, and his grooming so flawless he looks almost hyper-real, the cuff links and tie delicately co-ordinated, with their detail inversely echoed in his socks."

This is in stark contrast to the article's description of Tony Blair, whom she meets on her travels - "his face all over the place, a grotesque dance of eyebrows and teeth, manically gurning away".

Everyone Mandelson meets falls in love with him, Aitkenhead reports, mesmerised by his voice, his seductive powers and the "feline" fluidity of his movement.

Everyone, that is, except for a woman on a train who, in a memorable passage, bursts into tears after being told by Mandelson's aides to lower her voice on the phone (see Quote of the Day for more details) .

There's no love-in at the Daily Mail, where its Mandy coverage is equally extensive but markedly less frothy.

Instead of spending a few days travelling with him, getting an up-close relationship, the Mail opts for a more measured and distant approach... through a long lens.

The grainy shot of him topless on his holiday balcony in Corfu provides the front page picture with a double-page "spread" inside.

After the naked flesh of Jack Nicholson (Mail's verdict: "whaleman") and Vladimir Putin (verdict: "hardman"), this time Mandelson's holiday appearance is under scrutiny.

Mail columnist Liz Jones, whose omnipresence was noted in these pages a week ago, has taken off her burkha to give Mandelson a dressing down.

First his outfits get a mauling, then his figure - "A pair of sagging man boobs, the male equivalent of cellulite-pocked thighs, should be kept under wraps."

Her colleague Julia Langdon is equally scathing, describing him as "back cavorting and preening himself with such insouciance on the scene of last year's crime."

Paper Monitor wonders how much one can "cavort" in front of long-lens cameras hidden in bushes while on holiday.

Hang on, what is a holiday?

PS. So much fun with Mandy, PM (the real one) almost forgot to highlight this wonderful analysis of what is thought to be the oldest newspaper advert.

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