FORMER Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson has ruled out a return to the Government.

But the MP for Hartlepool insisted his political career was not yet over.

Mr Mandelson told BBC Radio Cleveland that he would not make a comeback to the ministerial ranks even if Tony Blair offered him a job.

He said: "The New Labour torch will never go out, nor are the lights going out on my political career, but I'm not going back to Government even if I'm asked."

There has been widespread speculation that a path might be cleared for Mr Mandelson to return to front-line politics after the Prime Minister agreed to reopen the inquiry into the Hinduja passport affair which forced the former minister to resign from the cabinet for a second time in January last year.

Mr Mandelson told the BBC that he expected the new inquiry to be completed within the next two weeks.

"My name was cleared last year, and I expect that will be reinforced in the review," he added.