- 22 Jun 07, 10:46 PM
This week's revelation that Gordon Brown has been trying to lure Lib Dems into his government came as something of a relief to me personally (though let me stress that I make no comment on whether it's a good or bad thing).
On the day Gordon Brown launched his campaign at the start of May, Newsnight led the programme with a big story on this. Brown had spoken that morning of a "Government of all the talents", and I had asked him whether he was "ruling in, or ruling out", the idea of appointing "ministers from other political parties". He wasn't ruling it in, or ruling it out, Mr Brown replied. I got quite excited, as Brown's comments seemed to tally with things I had been hearing from Scotland, and comments he'd made on the Andrew Marr programme in early January. So Newsnight went big on it that night, with an opening headline asking if Brown was about to appoint Liberal Democrats as ministers (watch my report here).
The story was immediately rubbished, not just in the studio by our own Newsnight political panel (of all the talents), but also live on the programme by the pensions minister James Purnell who suggested we were daft to interpret what Brown had said in this way. And members of Brown's entourage subsequently made it clear I'd misunderstood - he was merely thinking of non-Labour people - people like Chris Patten and Seb Coe - in advisory roles, chairing commissions and that sort of thing.
Strange, I thought, what's so new about that? Don't people like Patten and Coe do those sort of jobs already? I had an uncomfortable few days, wondering if I'd been guilty of terrible misjudgement - and gross hype - in one of my first stories as political editor. It was especially worrying that nobody else in the BBC, or the rest of the media, had run with the story. So you can imagine that I felt a certain amusement last night when I heard young Mr Purnell back on Newsnight explaining to viewers what a jolly good idea it was for Mr Brown to approach Lib Dems, an example of his new non-tribal approach to politics etc. etc.
And, as I explained on Wednesday night, it now seems that even if there aren't any Lib Dems in Brown's new government next week, we can expect several ministers who aren't Labour Party members, or who may even be members of other political parties.
Mind you, this isn't going down very well in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Many Labour MPs saw the advent of Brown as their big chance finally to get a government job - feeling they've been unfairly neglected by Tony Blair - whilst existing ministers will be worried about holding on to their jobs. Even if Brown's administration were confined to Labour Party people, I reckon there would be bound to be a lot of disappointed MPs. Extending his ministry beyond Labour is bound to encourage the sense of resentment and disgruntlement.
Michael Crick is Newsnight’s Politcal Editor – you can read the recent Telegraph profile of him here.