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A leap in the dark

Nick Robinson | 23:04 UK time, Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The thing about working in news is that you almost never have the time or, frankly, the inclination to review what you said and judge whether it has stood the test of time.

For the past few weeks, however, I've done just that - re-living the five days that led to the creation of Britain's first coalition government in 65 years.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg outside the door of 10 Downing StreetHappily I have not come across any gross inaccuracies but am struck by my failure - shared by many - to join the dots. In particular, I wish I'd listened more to two Liberal Democrats who told me during the election that they could see David Cameron doing a post-election deal.

Neil Sherlock, an adviser to this and many previous Lib Dem leaders, rang to remind me of what the Tory leader had said in a Radio 4 documentary I had made about Disraeli. Cameron had praised Dizzy for outmanoeuvring Gladstone on the issue of political reform and quoted a historian who said that the former Tory PM had "taken a leap in the dark and then leapt again". Neil's view was that anyone who could appreciate Disraeli's bold risk-taking was capable of replicating it.

Chris Huhne told me and his party that Cameron was the only Napoleonic leader left in Europe. In other words, whatever the Tory leader said became Tory policy.

Both were proved right.

There were a lot of reasons why Cameron was in the driving seat after polling day - his party had the most votes and seats; the Lib Dems had promised to respect this "mandate" in negotiations (they didn't have to, since in other parts of the world it's not uncommon for the second and third parties to form a government); Labour had had 13 years in office and three terms; and, of course, Gordon Brown was unpopular.

However, the personalities of the two leaders were vital to what happened in those five days. David Cameron told me for a programme on the making of the coalition, which is broadcast tonight, that he woke up on Friday morning after a few hours of sleep and decided that a coalition was right for Britain. The truth is, I believe, a little more complex. Cameron sensed that he was unlikely to secure a majority, feared the consequences for him and his modernising project of failing and had talked with his closest allies about a coalition well before polling day.

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In stark contrast, Gordon Brown had not prepared a policy offer for the Lib Dems, nor got the backing of his Cabinet, nor developed a relationship with Nick Clegg. This, despite the fact that he must have known that a Lib/Lab deal was likely to be his best hope of political survival. As so often with Brown this was not a failure to see ahead. He had, after all, proposed radical political reform, but he'd done it so late in his time in Downing Street that it wasn't taken seriously.

Gordon BrownInstead of building a relationship with the man with whom he might have to share power, Gordon Brown relied instead on his contacts with former Lib Dem leaders - Charles Kennedy, Paddy Ashdown and Menzies Campbell - and Vince Cable. Cable, who has known and liked Brown for three decades, was a regular pre-election visitor to Number 10. There were even hints of a ministerial job for him. Brown ignored the advice of Cable and all his Lib Dem friends to find a way to get on with Clegg. When I put it to Peter Mandelson that Clegg found Brown impossible, the Prince of Darkness replied with a wry grin that "No... he'd found him Gordon-ish".

There was another factor beyond the personal - the economic context on that post-election weekend. The crisis talks over how to prevent the Greek debt crisis spreading contagion throughout the eurozone were little reported in Britain, but officials in the Treasury and the Bank of England were focused on little else. Their fear was what one official describes as a "perfect storm" if the EU failed to agree a bail-out plan and Britain failed to produce a stable government by the time the markets opened on the Monday morning after the election.

When negotiators from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats came to the Cabinet Office for their first meeting, the Cabinet Secretary left them in no doubt what was expected of them. "My advice to them," Sir Gus O'Donnell tells the programme, "[was] that pace was important but that also the more comprehensive the agreement the better." If things had gone wrong, he says, "the markets would really have made us pay a price on the Monday morning by selling our debt and that would have been a real problem for the country."

Labour figures insist that all the arguments used by the Lib Dems - the Parliamentary arithmetic, the market warnings, the prime minister being "Gordon-ish" - are mere alibis to cover the fact that they made a choice to get into bed with the Conservative rather than Labour.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg sitting in the Cabinet roomWhat is striking reviewing those five days is how each of those reasons or alibis - take your pick - could be seen in advance. It was always likely that the Tories would be the largest party after the election. It was always evident that the Lib Dems were more hawkish on the deficit than Labour: Nick Clegg was the first to talk of "savage cuts"; Vince Cable was the first to spell out how they might be made; Chris Huhne used to work for a credit rating agency; David Laws is a former merchant banker. And it always evident that Nick Clegg found Gordon Brown impossible to deal with.

If only I'd listened to more to those two Lib Dems, I would also have predicted David Cameron's boldness - Labour's Andrew Adonis calls it his "strategic brilliance" - and the Tory leader's capacity to get pretty much anything past his party.

Note to self: Must try harder...

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Update, 10:54, 29 July: Those who think I've been too hard on Gordon Brown will be interested in Anthony Seldon's account in today's Independent of how he played those five days in May.

He reports what Brown would have said if he'd agreed to be interviewed for tonight's documentary - namely that he was always willing to stand aside to enable a coalition with the Lib Dems after a referendum on full scale political reform - PR and an elected Lords - had been held; that he signalled a willingness to talk about his future in his first phone call with Clegg and that he was explicit about it in their first meeting.

I've no doubt that Brown was sincere in his efforts to build a coalition and that he was not helped by colleagues who thought Labour should accept defeat - ranging from Alistair Darling to Tony Blair.

The problem was that it was too late. The Lib Dems were deeply suspicious of Brown - blaming him for resisting a deal between Blair and Ashdown in the 90s, for trying to recruit Paddy Ashdown to the Cabinet in 2007 without offering the Lib Dems anything in return and for only backing AV in the dying weeks of 13 years of New Labour rule. His relationship with Clegg was poor. The Labour Party had moved on.

Once again Brown saw what needed to be done but simply could not do it.

Five Days that Changed Britain is on BBC Two tonight at 2100 BST.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.


    Nick the ConDems are not out of the woods yet:

    Holyrood threat to scupper coalition poll plan.

    “With the row set to come to a head in the Commons as early as September 6, when MPs return from their summer recess to vote on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, another avenue to scupper the Government’s proposal has emerged – the disputes procedure of the Joint Ministerial Committee.

    The JMC – the main forum of debate between the devolved administrations and Whitehall – is due to have its next meeting in October, with the alternative vote (AV) poll on the agenda.

    With registration officers needing a statutory six months to organise the referendum, the deadline to resolve any dispute moves to December.

    Westminster sources said last night that once the disputes procedure is invoked, the matter is taken out of the hands of the London Government and placed in those of the JMC Secretariat.

    However, if the JMC Secretariat cannot resolve the dispute, then it is handed over to the JMC plenary, involving the Prime Minister and First Ministers, which is not due to take place until next summer.

    A senior Holyrood source said: “Serious consideration is being given to initiating the disputes procedure because this is a clear attempt by the UK Government to bounce us into a pre-set parliamentary poll.”


    The Scotsman is also running a similar article:

    Coalition government faces first defeat as Labour and Tory peers vow to sink referendum.

    Faltering plans to hold a referendum on voting reform on the same day as the Scottish elections face a double block with both Labour and Tory peers pledging to "massacre" the idea when it comes to the House of Lords.

    As Labour's shadow cabinet vowed to vote against the reforms in the Commons, peers said even if the idea still managed to clear the first hurdle, they would seek to defeat it in the Lords.

    Labour and Conservative peers, who make up half of the Lords' intake, are pledging to unite in opposition to the timing of the plan, with many also objecting to the principle of a vote on a new voting system.

    MPs who oppose the measure said last night that the Lords is where the Government bill allowing it to be staged on May 5 2011 would "grind to a halt".

    The Lords could vote against the legislation creating the referendum, forcing it back to the Commons.


    So it appears that a further dimension has been added - The House of Lords.

  • Comment number 3.

    I wanted to watch this programme. The BBC has been plugging it. It's only now that I read this blog that I realise I missed it. I must have tuned out of all those plugs.

  • Comment number 4.

    #3 andrew

    Andrew if you take a look at the link at the foot of Nicks blog, or use the following link, you will find that Five Days that Changed Britain is to be shown again on Monday 2 August 2010 at 23:20 hrs.

    You need to scroll to the foot of the article.

  • Comment number 5.

    #3 andrew

    You have not missed the programme, it is on tonight at 2100. Should be interesting.

    The polls before the GE had been forecasting hung parliament for weeks so I am sure it must have been thought about. For Cameron, so far it seems to have turned out ok. Not sure how Clegg would view it. I wonder if his views were sought when Nick R made the programme?

  • Comment number 6.

    Cameron is bathing in a post-Gordon glow. He is trying to make hay with reform of schools, NHS and a whole load of policies which the country is unsure about, before the reality hits the LibDems that the voting reform they crave for is a long way from a done deal and that many of their other 'policies' will prove to be unaffordable.

    He has cleverly given two jobs the LibDems, which have unpopularity labels already stuck on them. Danny A will be the front man as the costcutter in chief and Vince Cable as business secretary will take the blame for not creating enough jobs. Costcutting leading to unemployment is in reality not a popularity role and you can never create enough jobs. Nick Clegg has no role at all other than as Cameron's echo.

    The coalition could prove really bad for the LibDems both internally and in the public's eyes. Labour's tactics will be to do everything they can to make LibDem voters feel that the party they voted for in 2010 will not be worthy of their support in 2015. LibDem politicians being readily identifiable as partly responsible for the country's ongoing woes will not help their prospects either.

  • Comment number 7.

    Well, Cameron had tried to woo us for some time - but I don't think he got a positive response http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/20/david-cameron-libdems-tory-alliance

  • Comment number 8.

    I think Cameron is a very clever man, no, he IS a very clever man, to get a first at Oxford requires a lot more than just hard work. He also seems to be a man with a good sense of what is right or wrong: he has high standards of behavior, as you might expect (if not always get) from an old etonian. But what it seems to me makes him so right to be the leader of this country at the moment is his lack of adherance to party dogma, or what Gordon might have termed principles. He seems to take a pragmatic approach, and as Nick says, can be bold and take a leap in the dark if the challenge requires it. And the current challenge facing Britain does require boldness, the ability to hold your nerve, and to adapt to circumstances. Afterall we are in uncharted territory as far as the economy goes, and the balance of power around the world is changing. People may snear at the old Etonian tag, but it is a school that educates people to be future leaders, and in a crisis what this country needs is a man who knows how to lead.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sticking to the topic: yes Nick, you really could have seen it coming.

    - How long had Cameron been banging his 'I am a progressive conservative' drum?

    - How many times did Clegg affirm that any deals would be based on electoral mandate?

    - Frankly, how comfortably do the two of them get on together? (Politics is far more relational than ideological).

    But you couldn't see the wood for the trees of your own speculations. The only real surprise was the comprehensive nature of the coalition agreement, not that a (so called) party of the Right and a (nominal) party of the Liberal Left could find so much common ground to work from.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    The clues were there. But many of us were unwilling to draw the obvious conclusion.

    Why? Because it was unthinkable. The LibDems had spent 20 years building a support base as a progressive, centre-left party. Before the election, it was simply unimaginable that they would cosy up to the Tories so quickly and enthusiastically.

    Make no mistake, they are paying the price. Their poll rating has already collapsed, and it's still the honeymoon period. I'm not sure the LibDems will survive this coalition. When it's over, they will stumble out blinking into the daylight and see that their core support has crumbled.

  • Comment number 12.

    Seems to me like CameraOn's still working in darkness.

    So the Lie Dems saved the country by throwing their lot in with the Tories? Why, then, are they continuing to throw away their principles even after they've reached the top?

  • Comment number 13.

    The only sensible guide to the outcome of the five days that changed Britain was the previous thirteen years.

    Why would a man who spent thirteen years rowing with his own party; exhiiting the worst type of internal politial tribalism; refusing to talk about his budget decisions with his own prime minister; using his attack dogs to derail the prime minister at every conceivable opportunity; having one of his attack dogs expelled from Downing Street for trying to smear memebr fo the opposition cabinet - why would such a person have the faintest idea of how to build a new team.

    Gordon Brown was, is and remains a team of one. He was unfit to be a prime minister. He will write the standard revisionist history of his time in government blaming everyone else for the gaping holes in his regulation of the banks.

    It's a great time to be a tory...

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm really looking forward to seeing the programme, though in typicial BBC style it has been so heavily trailed on news programmes and here on the website I wonder what else I am going to learn.

    Anyway, I thought the way the media teated the coalition negotiations after the election result were verging on the hysterical. What was happening was little different to what happens in pretty well every other european democracy after pretty well every election. The surprising thing was that it took just 5 days of negotiation to reach agreement!

    The aftermath is curiously similar to the current situation in Germany, where the FPD, the junior partners in the CDU/CSU coalition, have seen support fall away since they became part of the government. There are also squabbles between the FPD and CDU/CSU over policy; all pretty familiar stuff to the UK where coalition government is a new experience.

    From my point of view, a voting system which creates consensus politics of one hue or the other is infinitely preferable to one which consistently throws up "majority" governemtn with 35% of the popular vote. If the up coming referendum brings that result it will be good for democracy, and good for Britain.

  • Comment number 15.

    As the Lib Dems collude to unpick the welfare state it will eventually be their undoing in the grass roots. Keep your eye on the bye election results over the next few months.

  • Comment number 16.

    Cameron... "the only true Napoleonic leader..."

    And look what happend to Napoleon.

  • Comment number 17.

    Nick,

    The Role of the Permanent Government

    There is a very serious and important matter that you have touched upon in your trailers for your show - that is the role of the Permanent Government. You mentioned Gus O'Donnell's (The Cabinet Secretary) role in arranging the coalition and also of the Bank of England.

    There really is an information deficit in the media that overlooks the importance and power of these people - you present us with the idea that the front men (politicians) are all powerful and can do what they want to do and indeed are even capable of understanding what they are doing or have the skills and knowledge required to achieve what they want.

    I have major concerns about the role of our Permanent Government. The individuals concerned were directly responsible for arranging regulation of the financial sector for the last five to ten years. This has really important implications in the areas of their proven competence. They must have known, or if they didn't they should have known and we have the right to expect that they knew, about the debt bubble. Any student of economics, which both of these men are, must have understood that the arithmetic of the bubble had to lead to a crash. Yet neither did anything about it. Worse still, both are still running things.

    There seems to be a something tantamount to a conspiracy between the new government (and the old government) and these people who rationally must have been responsible for regulation, defective regulation, that caused the bubble and then the crash. The apparent arrangement was that the politicians kept them (The Permanent Government) in power between governments to ensure that the politicians gained their support to form that government.

    The downside of this 'arrangement' is that the people who created the conditions for the crash are still in charge. This should be unacceptable - but the media say nothing - why? I cannot think that it is that the media haven't noticed that the same people are in office - so why then? Can anyone explain why such terrible failures are still running the show?

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm interested in knowing whether those two LibDem MP's revealed whether they thought the possibility of Cameron doing a deal was a good or bad thing.

    It seems to me that there has been much made of various LibDem supporters stating that if they'd known that a deal was likely, they would not have voted LibDem. I have to ask those people whether they would have voted LibDem if a LibDem/Lab coalition was the likely outcome? If that is so, logically they should have been voting Labour all along.

    Realistically they (the LibDems) were never going to win the election outright - their only option would be to hold the balance of power and form a coalition with one of the other two main parties. If they forever refuse to deal with one of those parties, it essentially makes their existence pointless - people may as well vote for the only party they will deal with.

    Which leads us on to the title of the Blog. A leap in the dark. I feel that yes - Cameron may have indeed leapt worthy of inclusion in the olympic team, but by the same token, so has Clegg.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm with Jonathan at 11 on this -the signs were there when you look back but there was an unwillingness to believe that this could happen because of the lib dem policies and the campaign that they ran.
    I think that it was a small group within the Lib Dems that pushed the party into this coalition -Nick C, David L being the main advocates. Had the distribution of seats been different I do not necessarily think that Nick C would have got it through so easily.
    They will pay a terrible price for it in the end but I do think that Nick Clegg is at home on the Tory front bench and give him a few more years I can see him 'doing a Churchill' and moving from the Lib dems to the Tories. Although I think NC will have a bit of a struggle to hold onto his seat come the next GE.
    Once the CSR reports in October this Government will struggle as conflicting policies cause unexpected effects. You can see that in India this week where GO and VC need Indian investment to create jobs to keep unemployment low (ish) in the UK. However, the cap on immigration and the message this sends out to people wanting to do business here will probably stop Indian businesses from wanting to invest. Tricky business this Government thing.

  • Comment number 20.

    Nick, you say, "Chris Huhne told me and his party that Cameron was the only Napoleonic leader left in Europe. In other words, whatever the Tory leader said became Tory policy."

    Oh dear!

    I think many of us would prefer a Prime Minister in the tradition of Wellington rather than Napoleon.

    As for whatever the Tory leader says becoming Tory policy, I don't think so. Under this coalition, the Lib-Dem tail seems to be wagging the dog, don't you think?

  • Comment number 21.

    Dear sweet innocent Nick.

    The purpose of this programme was simply to allow Cameron and Clegg et al to tell their version of history with one eye on the current state of the coalition.

    I am disappointed that the BBC has allowed Nick to be used in this way.



  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    All sounds a bit complicated. To me, the important issue was actually quite simple....

    ~30 million people voted: one person (Nick Clegg) decided who rules the country.

    I can not regard them as a legitimate government.

  • Comment number 24.

    David Cameron may have thought he had decided on a coalition after a few hours' sleep but actually there is a phenomenon in psychology where matters are pondered sub consciously, sometimes for years, before entering consciousness- apparantly all at once. It is likely that is what happened here.

  • Comment number 25.

    Five days that changed Britain? From your perspective Nick, quite probably. From where I am sitting I can only say not yet and hurry up.

    The trouble with the election was that no party told the truth about the economy for fear an electorate that appeared self-indulgent in thinking it had a choice, would baulk at the prospect of massive cuts in state spending.

    The end result was that Labour lost and nobody won.

    The fact that nobody won resolved itself into a coalition, an idea that was always out there ever since the banking collapse. The disgrace for Labour to my mind is that they did not seek a National Government given the problems the country faced long before the election. That Labour never dumped Brown to do this was quite extraordinary as the man had liability written all over him. He wasn't just disliked Nick, in some quarters I found he was hated with a truly visceral savagery.

    To those 40% of the Liberal Democratic persuasion who now won't support the party I can only ask why didn't you work out that coalition was the only way the Liberal Democrats could go forward as a party and that the most likely option was a partnership with the Conservatives? Or did you really want Labour-lite? Silly people!

    To the Tories who have the grumps about the coalition I can only say you should have tried harder to win but then you all thought you were the natural party of government and Labour had screwed up so why worry as the election was in the bag! Foolish people!

    There are interesting aspects to Nick's story particularly the role of senior officials. The prospect of a run on sterling if the political stand-off had not been resolved in a timely fashion was on the cards.

    We have to appreciate that the political class in the shape of Cameron and Clegg did step up to the plate for better of for worse. The fact that Labour just indulged in stunts during the period of negotiation defines them as wholly unfit for government. New Labour is a party by name and definition, a jolly event for a Friday or a Saturday night with drinkies and pressies all round.

    It becomes quite evident that Cameron wanted to be Prime Minister and wanted it badly enough to pick the stick up by the mucky end. This is not the end of the story but we all have to grudgingly give him some respect for that. There was no alternative. A lot of British people still understand and recognise duty.

  • Comment number 26.

    Looks like an interesting programme. Shame about the lack of Brown, given the flapping of the rest of the previous government I would have liked to hear his comments; he never had an easy task before him, I'l give him that.
    I had hoped for a Lib-Con Coalition before the election, mostly because my political beliefs are all over the map from right to left depending on the issue, and I'm glad they did even if the exact form it takes is not perfect, but I never thought it would actually happen. I saw a few articles in the days following the election suggesting an alliance was not as impossible as many thought, but before that it seemed a given only a Lib-Lab pact could happen.
    Like No.8 above I agree Cameron seems laudably pragmatic, though I cannot imagine that makes him very popular, even if he has delivered his party into power.
    -----------
    No.12 So the Lie Dems saved the country by throwing their lot in with the Tories? Why, then, are they continuing to throw away their principles even after they've reached the top?
    -----------
    As far as I can tell all parties throw away their principles, and most definitely their manifestos, when they reach the top. Not entirely, but they find things are not as they believed, that other things cannot be done as they thought, but they don't acknowledge they are changing to meet the circumstances because it would appear weak. More relevantly, it is a Coalition government after all. No matter which parties make up a Coalition each side would have to do things they dislike in order to get others things they like, they would have to 'throw away their principles' as a party to side with any other party; that's why they are separate parties after all.
    I don't see that as a betrayal - though I waver mostly between the two governmental parties on most things anyway - just normal politics (New politics? No such thing), and the Lib Dems are making some painful concessions, just as they would have with Labour (though perhaps 'throwing away' different principles to do so), in order to at least get some Lib Dem ideas on the table. It hasn't made me regret voting Lib Dem, but I think No. 15 is right; as much as I like the idea of this government, I think it will hit the Lib Dems hard, perhaps even catastrophically.
    -------------
    No. 18 It seems to me that there has been much made of various LibDem supporters stating that if they'd known that a deal was likely, they would not have voted LibDem. I have to ask those people whether they would have voted LibDem if a LibDem/Lab coalition was the likely outcome? If that is so, logically they should have been voting Labour all along.
    Realistically they (the LibDems) were never going to win the election outright - their only option would be to hold the balance of power and form a coalition with one of the other two main parties. If they forever refuse to deal with one of those parties, it essentially makes their existence pointless - people may as well vote for the only party they will deal with.
    ----------
    Some fine points, well made.

  • Comment number 27.

    -----------No.20--
    Nick, you say, "Chris Huhne told me and his party that Cameron was the only Napoleonic leader left in Europe. In other words, whatever the Tory leader said became Tory policy."
    Oh dear!
    I think many of us would prefer a Prime Minister in the tradition of Wellington rather than Napoleon.
    ----------------
    Agreed, but insofar as making a deal goes, it is easier to deal with a Napoleon type who can command his party (how long will that last?) even if he has to make concessions they dislike, than a leader whose position is, shall we say, less firm.

  • Comment number 28.

    Distanttraveller wrote
    "Nick, you say, "Chris Huhne told me and his party that Cameron was the only Napoleonic leader left in Europe. In other words, whatever the Tory leader said became Tory policy."

    Oh dear!

    I think many of us would prefer a Prime Minister in the tradition of Wellington rather than Napoleon.

    As for whatever the Tory leader says becoming Tory policy, I don't think so. Under this coalition, the Lib-Dem tail seems to be wagging the dog, don't you think?"

    Don't worry he could still turn out to be a Wellington, he led the Tories to possibly their worst election defeat ever.

  • Comment number 29.

    Are we not simply witnesses to the fact that politics is the art of what is possible?

  • Comment number 30.

    Mindless self regarding nonsense most of this analysis by the BBC.

    Why aren't you making the point that the newlabour party are now prepared to betray even their own Chartist beginnings - the founding fathers of the labour party who pledged to spread the vote and improve fairness in the ballots.

    Now they can't evne bring themselves to support a bill for AV and equalisation of boundaries that is exactly in the spirit of the Chartists and was in their own manifesto.

    Instead they shout an extremely serious charge indeed; that of gerrymandering... Jack Straw shouts gerrymandering at the coalition when the prevention of this bill would amount to the leaving in place of a 5% newlabour electoral advantage .. now who's gerrymandering?

    Newlabour are making themselves unelectable for the next generation never mind the next parliament.

    Not content with losing the election newlabour now wish to preserve an out dated parliamentary system they have spent thirteen years promising to reform.

    Do they have a death wish?

    It's a great time to be a tory...

  • Comment number 31.

    Yes, the signs were there - in particular Clegg repeatedly insisting the Lib Dems would work with the party with the 'electoral mandate'. Many refused to believe this meant he would really work with the Conservatives.

    So the Lib Dems' poll ratings have fallen and many would have us believe this is because of their 'betrayal' in working with the Conservatives. However, if you look at the records, their current rating (I think YouGov have them on 14%) is no worse than their rating for most of the period after the 2005 election YouGov had them at 24% on polling day in 2005. By the start of 2006 this had fallen to 16% and it remained in the mid teens really until the start of 2010 (although there were fluctuations during this time, bottoming at 11% in October 2007 and peaking at 21% in September 2009).

    Most, who gave it a thought, knew the party would take a hit in the polls if they went into coalition with the Conservatives. The same, quite honestly, would have happened if they had worked with a ‘defeated’ Labour party. But, as a party that has long advocated ‘plural’ politics, the Lib Dems have done what they said they would regardless of the potential electoral cost. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 32.

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  • Comment number 33.

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  • Comment number 34.

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  • Comment number 35.

    As an "orange book" Liberal, I am amused by the assumptions of the sandal-wearing wing of my party (and those Labour party supporters pretending to be Liberal). Yes, our 'left-wing' is disproportionately represented amongst our activists. However, if you look at the **voters**, who are far more essential than 'activists', we are far more right wing than the sandal-wearers believe.

    OK, we may lose two or three percent of our vote, as those sandal-wearers who are comfortable with authortarian, identity-card, asbo, 90-day detention Labour, depart. However, in the long run, I believe that we will gain more, with the left-wing of the Tories more prepared to vote for us in LD/Lab marginals.

    (And a side-note to Labour supporters like wirralwesleyan, before making fatuous claims like "I think NC will have a bit of a struggle to hold onto his seat come the next GE", why don't you actually look at the facts before making up your mind. Nick Clegg has an absolute majority, and as a former Tory seat, the majority of his vote is from the right of the LibDems. With Labour starting from 16% (and a 23% Tory vote who would vote Clegg to keep Labour out) do you really believe that you could win this seat?)

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    In my opinion, Clegg never warmed to Brown and could never see any compromise coming from Labour on the alternative vote. So as clever as some might beleive Cameron is, Clegg has effectively called his bluff on it. The ultimate aim of a negotiation in those 5 days would have been to maximise the deal in your own party interests. So he was perfectly in his rights to try and lever as many concessions as he could out of the prospective PM. My preference would have been for him to have been more persuasive and argue over the scale of austerity cuts.

  • Comment number 38.

    Personally a Scottish backlash for the CONDEMS is certainly on the cards, I'm sure 11 + 1 numbers will change but I'm afraid that'll be up to the Scottish electorate but would'nt it be great if the 1 off MOFFAT man lost out...............

  • Comment number 39.

    Sounds like a hell of a documentary, Nick. And tonight's the night, isn't it? I for one can't wait - got the pizzas in and everything.

    Not sure about this though ...

    ""If things had gone wrong," he says, "the markets would really have made us pay a price on the Monday morning by selling our debt and that would have been a real problem for the country.""

    Lurid.

    I know it's Sir Gus O'Donnell but still.

  • Comment number 40.

    "Why aren't you making the point that the newlabour party are now prepared to betray even their own Chartist beginnings?" - 30

    Because this would be an extremely partisan point, Robin, and thus Nick can happily rely on others to make it - those inclined to do that sort of thing. Such as yourself.

  • Comment number 41.

    The word "alibi" (used in the blog) is often incorrectly used to mean an excuse whereas its proper meaning is a defence by an accused person claiming to be somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.

  • Comment number 42.

    It will be sad if the LibDems suffer for this. I think they have both stopped the worst of what the Tories might have done, and yet provided encouragement to Cameron to attempt some worthwhile things that he might not otherwise have attempted.

    Yes, it is going to be unpleasant over the next few years, but events over the last few years have made that inevitable. If you don't want your favourite area to experience cuts, think about how you're going to get the extra money to pay to maintain things and who else is going to suffer more if you do.

  • Comment number 43.

    'If only'

    'I wish I had listened to...David Cameron doing a post-election deal''

    ...and how this possibility would have played out in the polls, and the final election result. ???

    Maybe we wouldn't have our heads in our hands as DC, in India, warns Pakistan not to play terrorism both ways, whilst sealing a deal for part-UK manufactured fighter jets to be exported to India.

    DC, in Turkey, warns Israel about the ''prison of Gaza''.

    In America, admits the UK is the 'junior partner''in the relationship.


  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    sagamix

    Okay then; you take up the question instead.

    Why, after campaigning for AV during the election, with their proud Chartist heritage are newlabour screeching about gerrymandering when that is exactly what they are trying to preserve?

    Please explain how it is 'progressive' to maintain an electoral system that you campaigned to get rid of.

    Please explain how it is 'progressive' to maintain unequal and unfair boundaries - something the Chartists campaigned against.

    What has happened to the alleged rich spirit of progressivism in the newlabour party? It is now apparently trapped in its own contradictions.

    Or is it just buried under a mountain of egomania; where it has been ever since Bevan, in fact.

    It's a great time to be a tory...

  • Comment number 46.

    11. At 09:12am on 29 Jul 2010, Jonathan wrote:

    Make no mistake, they are paying the price. Their poll rating has already collapsed, and it's still the honeymoon period. I'm not sure the LibDems will survive this coalition. When it's over, they will stumble out blinking into the daylight and see that their core support has crumbled.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Don't get too excited about the Libbies poll ratings. It was bumping around 16 to 18 during most of Cleggies time in charge.

    I think only Kennedy, in recent years, has been able to keep their polling numbers up between elections. It traditionally sags after a GE.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think you are being unfair on Gordon Brown because as soon as Nick Clegg stated that he would only form a coalition with the party with the strongest "mandate" (most votes or most MPs?) it was all down to the voters. This whole coalition is the work of the Lib Dems, not Cameron who I'm sure would rather have governed alone. It's complete spin to go on about how daring Cameron is, when he just had to accept the reality of not winning enough seats. If Labour had managed to hang on, Cameron would probably be another ex-Tory leader like Hague and Duncan-Smith.

    You are also being unfair to Gordon Brown, because I'm sure he could see that Labour were unlikely to win outright, that he would have to go, and therefore it was best for the Labour Party to be out of office for a while, to sort out a new leader and a new direction. There is also the hope that the coalition will make themselves deeply unpopular with all these cuts - most of which are ideologically driven.

    I think the real losers in this election will turn out to be the Lib Dems, or at least Nick Clegg. Everyone suspected he was a right-winger when he was elected leader, and now everyone knows. No-one to the left of centre will vote for them again while he is still their leader.

    And the real story of this government, in my view, is how LITTLE they have changed from the old Tories. Cutting the Film Council? Regional Development? Giving control of the NHS to GPs - like in the pre-NHS days? These things are not about saving money, it's about small government whatever the social outcome - that is what "big society" really means.

  • Comment number 48.

    A bold leap in the dark with echoes of Disraeli outmanoeuvring Gladstone...

    I guess BBC reporters see things as they wish to see them, but to me it is evidence that to both Clegg and Cameron are more than willing to put the trivialities of their principles to one side when it comes to grabbing power with both hands. That would be my interpretation anyway, but we are all biased.

  • Comment number 49.

    sagamix 40

    "Because this would be an extremely partisan point, Robin,...."

    Sagamix, this is probably the first time you have heard of the Chartists, so I suppose you can be excused up to a point (though it is amusing to see you bested on Labour history by a Conservative).

    For the improvement of your knowledge, you could start here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartism

    where you will find that equalisation of the population of the constituencies was one of the principal demands of the Chartists. Thus, it is, as Robin notes, quite remarkable that the current Labour position on electoral reform runs directly against not just the spirit of Chartism but, in fact, the very letter of it. A point well worth making, indeed, and if anything, it is rather partisan to ignore it, as Nick does, or to try to sweep it under the carpet as, predictably, you do.

  • Comment number 50.

    and more importantly sagamix...

    What is the point of nelwbaour if they want to betray the 'fairness' of the Chartists?

    It's a great time to be a tory...

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    Glad to see the job of Prime Minister is not too demanding for Mr Cameron.
    Current events are clearly not demanding his attention, as he seems to have plenty of time to reflect on the past 3 or 4 months.

  • Comment number 53.

    Difference is many of Napoleon's polices were progressive.

  • Comment number 54.

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  • Comment number 55.

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  • Comment number 56.

    You talk about Cameron's campaign of 'modernising' as though it had any substance. This 'new politics' is old post-WWI politics of Liberals burying their principles to get into government. The savage, political cuts aimed at the most needy, the 'reduction of the state' and gerrymandering of the borders to build a one party state has been the driving force in the Tory party since at least the 1930s. Clegg and his accomplices have sold their political souls to be at the high table and we see, daily, how they are used as a front to legitimise some of the the most regressive plans, many of which would have made Margaret Thatcher blench. Since when did having a financially illiterate Chancellor, a politically illiterate Prime minister and handing out jobs to a bunch of public-schoolboys from nowhere constitute 'new politics'? These turnips are throwbacks to a past most people wanted to bury. They cannot open their mouths on any subject without causing confusion, even when their teams of writers who script their 'spontaneous' outpourings work day and night. It is the politics of the small minded Tory councillor of the past- there is no vision, just a complacent, hypocritical view of society belonging to jingoistic fiction of the twenties. Foreign policy is telling johnny foreigner what's what. Economic policy is small-minded short-termism based on a sad Victorian belief that private enterprise thrives in opposition to the public sector. Somehow, I think the BBC and its obviously biased political team are responsible for landing us with this lot- and they are desperate to shore it up with bogus feel-good programming!

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes Robin, JR, but the Chartists were driven by high democratic principle (weren't they?) whereas the tories and those, such as you two, who have chosen to walk with them on the shady side of the street are concerned only what's best for the tories. Am I right or am I bang on?

  • Comment number 58.

    I'm confused.

    Nick Clegg said he was convinced to faster,deeper cuts by talking to officials in the Govt. and the Central Bank after the election. However, the Coalition document contains the intention to do it...and that was written before he could have spoken to such officials. In addition King has said(in answer to committee questioning) he did not have such a conversation with him. Now it is revealed(in an interview) that he changed his mind about cuts before the election... strange because I did not hear anything from him to that effect during the election campaign.


    I believe similar antics have been going on over the reason to refuse the loan to Forgemasters..


    I will leave you to draw your own conclusions...

    .......................................

    The AV/boundary changes.

    It is obvious that the LDs have been sold a pup yet again. Labour find it difficult to support the bill because it proposes to re-draw the boundaries in too short a time, taking no notice of unregistered voters,and without proper consultation. This is regardless of the fact it will damage them electorally. Why propose such half-baked measures...knowing Labour would find them unacceptable and giving them ample excuse ?

    The simple answer to this is to split the bill...I wonder why they wont ?

    Again I leave you to draw your own conclusions...

    .................................

    Foreign Affairs.

    Has DC put foot in it again today, if not it makes a welcome change.

  • Comment number 59.

    ---------------------
    Somehow, I think the BBC and its obviously biased political team are responsible for landing us with this lot- and they are desperate to shore it up with bogus feel-good programming!
    -----------------

    This argument would have more substance if the same accusations had not been made (and in fact continued to be made) with regard to the past government, i.e. the BBC was said to be baised in favour of Labour, and yet is now also apparently biased in favour of the Conservatives. Who am I meant to believe when I see these contradictory claims? They cannot both be right, I think.

  • Comment number 60.

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  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

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  • Comment number 63.

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  • Comment number 64.

    sagamix 57

    Chartists and the democratic principle - yes, correct.

    Conservatives and Liberals and the democratic principle - don't see why not, provided that what they do is limited to evening up the constituency sizes. Clearly, if they do things like break up Surrey Heath or Kensington and Chelsea into four mini-constituencies then you would have a point, but since that isn't going to happen, you don't.

    Labour and the democratic principle - well, their position is to try to retain a clear, undemocratic, electoral advantage by maintaining the status quo, so they are rather obviously in breach of the democratic principle.

    So in conclusion, your "Am I right or am I bang on?" - you appear to be wrong, indeed, you are about as wrong as it is possible for you to be.

  • Comment number 65.

    Less than 3 hours to Nick’s programme! What’s everyone doing to kill the time between now and then? You know the old saying that “time flies when you’re having fun?” ... rubbish, isn’t it? The very opposite is what I find. When I’m enjoying myself (doing whatever) the whole thing – the pleasure I’m engaged in – seems to go on for a long long time. Conversely, the more boring and tedious and unpleasant the activity, the quicker the clock seems to move. So what I do when I want time to go fast – to really get a move on – is I deliberately do something which I find irksome in the extreme. And so it is now (since I really cannot wait for this Nick documentary about the 5 days that changed Britain); I’m doing something particularly horrid right now and I’m going to carry on with it all the way through to 9 pm. I’m reading the tory manifesto. Oh yuck yuck yuckety yuck. Can I stop now? What time is it?

  • Comment number 66.

    jrperry.

    The point is the Tories have insisted in bolting on the boundary reforms to the AV ref in order to make it more difficult for Labour to support. If a proper considered look at boundary reform was proposed in a seperate bill then yes, Labour would appear hypocritical. However, this present bill creates trouble not only from the left but also the right...probably the Tories intention..in the hope that the AV ref falls.

  • Comment number 67.

    I am pleased to see the coalition working to provide a strong and stable government for Britain. In spite of all the nervousness and intense media scrutiny about it in the five days after the election, the coalition seems to be getting along just fine. I am impressed the party leadership was able to agree to an agenda very quickly and are now working hard to implement the policies. While many voters will not totally agree with all policies, I think those who supported the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats in the election will see policies implemented in proportion to the voter support they received in the election. In the end, time will tell if coalitions like this can work in Britain's modern society. I certainly hope they do so. For now, this is our best chance to achieve stable and progressive change, reducing the size of central government in a fair way and decentralising power.

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    Oh come on, JR (64). Chartists. Honestly. You’re talking as if having constituencies of spot on equal size (in electorate) is the ultimate in democratic purity. As important even as the move to AV (not real PR, btw) with which it’s now being conflated. It may well be desirable – it is probably desirable - but I know and you know, and the Man in the Moon knows, that the reason it’s being bundled in like this is for sordid and sadistic tory party political reasons. Not as if the current size distribution is miles from the mean, is it? What’s the standard deviation, do you reckon? Okay, average deviation then. Exactly. And with precisely equal size constituencies one party could still win fewer seats than their national vote share merits if (like the Conservatives) their voters are silly enough to pile up huge majorities in certain seats, and also insist on turning out in places where they have no chance, rather than (like Labour voters) either intelligently sneaking home at the polls or, even more intelligently, not bothering. This happens to be one of the big arguments for Prop Rep. Tory Party inspired (!) by Chartist principles ... lol ... that has to be one of the very funniest notions you’ve ever floated. Hey and what about the Cousins? Back to the drawing board for them, I rather think. Texas only has 2 senators, for heaven’s sake. Should be at least 15 surely.

  • Comment number 70.

    Nick,

    I don't wish to be rude, but this is all pretty boring stuff.

    We saw the coalition negotiations reported 24/7 by the media at the time. The edited recorded highlights and post match analysis, won't change the result or the nature of the game. And I my view those of us who followed it as it unfolded aren't remotely interested in "who said what to who" now.

    As for the "key players" they'll simply give the best account of themselves that can't be disproven by the available information.

    New Labour are consigned to the dustbin of history, and things have moved on ......

  • Comment number 71.

    craigmarpool 66

    "The point is the Tories have insisted in bolting on the boundary reforms to the AV ref in order to make it more difficult for Labour to support."

    More accurately, evening up constituency sizes and reducing the overall number to 600 was in the Conservative manifesto, as sagamix should now be able to confirm. It is a popular and very reasonable policy, and, to the extent that any political machinations are involved, it is almost certainly in the bill to ensure that the Conservative backbenchers support the electoral reform bill at least to the point that it gets past the first reading. The fact that Labour are pushed into a position of being deeply hypocritical by opposing it (which they pretty much have to, because it takes away the undemocratic electoral advantage that they cherish so much), and are trying to defend their position by using the ludicrous "gerrymandering" and "unregistered voters" arguments, is merely political gravy.

    Look cmp, if you can give me a sound, democratically-based argument as to why the Isle of Wight and Glasgow Central should both return one MP each, then you maybe have a leg to stand on. Otherwise, you don't.

  • Comment number 72.

    69 sagamix

    Rant over? Good. It's amusing to see how worried you lefties are about removal of your "Rotten Boroughs"!

    See my 71, and respond to the challenge at the end, if you can.

  • Comment number 73.

    jrperry.

    At least with a separate bill the trouble from the left would go.

    You see I'm not opposed to this in principle...but the details of this bill worry me: no proper local consultation, contracted time period, some safe LD scottish seats exempt from change etc etc.

    If a proper separate bill on boundary reform was put forward which addressed these issues, then yes,Labour would be guilty of hypocrisy.

    As it stands it provides Labour with, I think, some reasonable grounds to oppose.

    Like a lot of Coalition legislation it is rushed,partisan and poorly thought out.

    Saga is also correct, there is also an argument against purely equal constituencies on grounds of geography, community etc etc.

    And of course it does not make each vote equal...thats a myth.We will still have safe seats and tactical voting. Only PR will deliver that...unfortunately thats not on offer...bad deal all round really.

  • Comment number 74.

    sagamix 69

    Hang on a minute, what's all this? "Standard deviation"? "Average deviation"?

    Why are you wasting everybody's time trying to give the impression that you have some comprehension of these terms, when we all know from bitter experience that you struggle even to add up a column of numbers?

    I'll tell you what, if you want to escape conviction on the charge of being a charlatan, let's see you present a brief exposition of what standard deviation and average deviation actually are, how relevant they are to the specific issue of constituency sizes and, in particular, how they differ. A worked example wouldn't come amiss. And no cutting and pasting, thankyou very much; we can all do google!

  • Comment number 75.

    72. jrperry
    Not a big fan of david miliband but this piece he wrote has relevance as to why labour would oppose political reform as presented by the coalition.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/29/labour-supports-electoral-reform-not-unfair-bill

    I think it is important to note that as political reform is so fundamentally important that it should be discussed at length and go through many phases of discussion in order to achieve the best/largest consensus possible before being put to a vote. If reform is to go through it would make sense to give it the best chance possible of succeeding. Personally I would have liked to see a referendum with VARIOUS choices of political reform offered. Then this to be discussed at length through the media before a national vote.
    It is a relevant point to mention that after 13 YEARS of a labour govt AND recession that the tories failed to gain a majority!!!. Added to this the fact that nick cleggs popularity and his parties popularity has nosedived (recent polls). Adding all this together it is quite understandable that something as important as political reform should not be “rushed through”.

  • Comment number 76.

    It may have all been by default. Labour did better than Brown expected and the Lib Dems were a big surprise and if not for the allocation system would have had many more seats. The Tories had no choice but the make a deal and Labour was worn out with the financial crisis and all. The party has just begun so we will need to see how this plays out. No movement on the economy and the public will want something new. As the bankers propose another bubble we will see if the Tories decide that keeping power is more important than doing what is right. As the crisis drags on things will get more interesting and continued cuts to pay off the bankers debts will not sit well.

  • Comment number 77.

    None of this will alter the fact that no one voted for this ConDem coalition, no one wants their obnoxious Agenda, and no one will mourn the hastening of their ignominious departure. Stick the boot in all you like NR, it is nothing to what the electorate has in store for this shower.

  • Comment number 78.

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  • Comment number 79.

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  • Comment number 80.

    Guys,

    What is the point of changing the system that picks the deck chair attendants? When they don't run the place!

    Politicians and the media connive to present the politicians as powerful and good quality managers. Look at them carefully. How many of them actually did anything other than politics or journalism. Yet we are persuaded that they know how to run things. They don't, any more than the average person in the street. They are amateurs. They are the tools of the Permanent Government and the Good and the Great who actually pull the levers of power. This whole nonsense of AV is a con to make us accept that we actually have some power over what happens. We don't.

    We have just change one tory government for another tory government one was called the Labour Party and the other is the rest. If they were so different why did Labour carry on with tory policies when they were elected? and ditto today. There is no opposition just a change of shift. There is no alternative government. We are all stuffed!

    In 1945 when Labour came to power and created the NHS that was a time of revolutionary change. (So much so that when Churchill returned to power he tried to abolish the NHS.) What happens today: the Torys come to power and they continue with the Labour policy of creating academies. AV is a con.

    What we need is no more than 300 MPs - none of whom can be a member of a party or stand a part of any group. They would have to explain their views individually.

    Voting should be done electronically with every voter able to vote on every bill before parliament. The MPs should handle the constituency matters and act as communicators about proposed bills.

    The executive should be separate and separately personally elected - again without parties with individuals explaining why they were the best for the jobs.

    No MP or member of the executive should be able to be elected more than once. All parliaments of fixed 4 year terms.

    All of this party nonsense is out of date and has declined in its utility and effectiveness because of the total domination by career politicians. Everyone in power should be elected including councillors, judges, headmasters... Health and Safety inspectors, directors of all public companies, tax collectors, etc. etc.

    Politics has effectively abolished itself!

    (Trying to provide a contrast to first past the post vs AV by challenging ... everything!)

  • Comment number 81.

    An excellent film Nick, captured those five unreal days brilliantly. A superb soundtrack as well: Air, heaps of Moby, U.N.C.L.E. and did I also spot a bit of Steve Reich in there? Excellent stuff!

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    One thing you missed in this programme which was glaring then as it is now is that Labour were not going to do a coalition deal; they were only going to offer Cable a ministerial position and some parliamentary time on some Lib/Dem policies.

    And something else too.

    Labour had in the recent past done a deal with the Lib/Dems only to renege on it later on so they had form, bad form.

    The deal struck with the Tories was opportunist for both but as we are finding now, if trust exists between two parties, a lot can happen.....

    .....which is why Mandy had the last word and suggested that Labour ought to get wise to alliances in future.

    PS Balls was just.....well balls! Which is why I am supporting him in Labours leadership race although in truth whoever wins will provide more of the same blah blah for the next thousand years. Come on Dianne, you can do it yet!

  • Comment number 84.

    I feel that the film let Labour off too lightly. The argument that a coalition of the left would not work because of sheer lack of numbers and the immense difficulty of holding together a ragbag of parties is valid, despite the sneering of former ministers. Equally, you failed to mention the deep-seated, even visceral opposition to coalition among many Labour MPs, notably exploited publicly by Reid and Blunket. Clegg was entitled to take that into account when deciding what ultimately to do.

  • Comment number 85.

    Well thanks for that, JR (79). Read it, read it again, then stretched it out on the floor and pored over every word – every letter – but no, I couldn’t see any stab at any flavour of the deviation from the mean as regards constituency electorates. Not as an absolute number, not as a percentage of the mean, not in any guise whatsoever. Thus we don’t progress. Is it relevant? Mmm let’s see now. The issue is to what extent unequal constituency sizes are warping our democratic process, and this calculation would tell us how unequal they really are. Gee, looks like it is, doesn’t it? Looks like it’s about as relevant as a thing could be. Is it just laziness stopping you taking a look? Or is it that you know the answer already and you know it makes a bit of a mockery of your tory story grandstanding?

  • Comment number 86.

    Good programme Nick, almost lived up to the build up. Ed Balls came out of it best, I'd say. Mr Integrity really. Mandelson amusing and erudite as always, Cameron kind of a Mandy Lite. Nick Clegg, oh dear what a chancer. That bit where he pretended he'd changed his mind about spending cuts this year because of "the markets". Risible.

  • Comment number 87.

    Major fact check. The lack of sleep seems to have fogged everyone's memory. In front of no.10, Brown himself offered 'immediate legislation on AV', to be followed by a referendum on full PR, LIVE on television. No wonder Cameron is sure in his mind it was on the table! Doesn't anyone remember the feeling of terrible impeding doom this prompted? There was loads of debate about how this could be possible, Harriet Harman attempted to 'clarify' by saying GB meant that legislation would be passed introducing it first and then there would be a referendum after.

  • Comment number 88.

    Hyped programmes are always a bit of a disappointment. Even if you suspected as much from the beginning.
    Shock, horror. Politicians seemingly didn't have a clue but , as always, putting the best spin possible on it. Humphreys firmly in control and not shy about letting us know so. Less facilitators more catalysts, kingmakers or even puppetmasters.
    Can we believe any of them? You may well think not. I, of course, couldn't possible comment.

  • Comment number 89.

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  • Comment number 90.

    re 61. At 4:51pm on 29 Jul 2010, MPWHITE

    "Neither yourself or Paxman or Dimbleby told the real truth and often referred to the 'deffecit' without explaning what it really was and also the deffecit refers to just 1 years overspend."

    oooh, don't get me started on that one.

    good old Auntie beeb was implying at every opportunity that the deficit/debt was only £150billion or so, I never ever heard anyone from the BBC mention the fact that that £150billion was just a single year's overspend; anyone who heard the BBC, even those who studied economics, would probably have thought that £150billion was the total accumulated debt, because the BBC never mentioned the context of that "deficit". Whenever tory politians were interviewed on the BBC about the debt and tried to point this out to the public, it always seemed to be "well, that's all we've got time for today..." from the BBC who swiftly moved on before anyone noticed.

    £150billion "debt" ? Well, after the books have finally seen the light of day and Gordon Brown's cooking-the-books has become clear for all to see, the actual full accumulated debt/liability seems to be of the order of something like £4trillion.

    The BBC just follow the same labour line; never ever mention the real debt, just mention the official single-years' overspend and hope that nobody notices.

    The voters/license-fee-payers aren't going to forget what labour/bbc have done on this front.

    Shameful.

    (ps: "GetridofGordonNow" is no more; as per D Wilkinson's suggestion a few weeks back, I changed my username to something more appropriate).

  • Comment number 91.

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  • Comment number 92.

    87. At 11:03pm on 29 Jul 2010, cosyblackbird wrote:
    Major fact check. The lack of sleep seems to have fogged everyone's memory. In front of no.10, Brown himself offered 'immediate legislation on AV', to be followed by a referendum on full PR, LIVE on television. No wonder Cameron is sure in his mind it was on the table!
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    This is true but immediate legislation is not "delivering AV" unless you have a majority in Parliament capable of delivering it, which he did not.

    This is not a party political point. A system in which parties campaign in a way that questions the veracity and feasibility of its opponents plans for months is unlikely to lead to an effective coalition at the end of it that is based on mutual trust and respect.

    Labour's only chance of remaining in power was to offer a real prospect of PR, it was also their only chance of ensuring that any deal with the Tories was based on significant concessions.

    Cameron's only chance of securing power for several years was to make plausible concessions to Clegg.

    Clegg's only chance of salvaging something from their defeat was to play one off against the other, which he did with skill. Labour had the most to lose by not making a deal but the Tories had the most to gain by making one.

    The Nation's only hope of a stable government was for the party that staked its reputation on being radical and different to succeed and moderate one or the other of them. Unfortunately it also demonstrated that it was willing to sell its principles in a way the other two were not. It sold Lib Dem principles to the Tories but its clear they were capabale of selling them to Labour. Politics is a decadent business.

  • Comment number 93.

    Well done Nick on the 'Five Days That Changed Britain'. It's clear that the Lib Dem Old Guard socialists would much preferred to have done a deal with Labour. But in the end, as pointed out at the time, that would have looked like a 'Coalition of the Losers', particularly if Brown remained in office, propped up by the party that came third and had also lost seats.

    Perhaps the coalition of Tories and Lib Dems was a better option than another Lib Lab pact, but it seems the Tories were so eager to win over the fickle Lib Dems that they have allowed themselves to become 'the junior partner'.

  • Comment number 94.

    Sorry - surely the most shocking revelation in the programme was Clegg declaring that he had changed his mind about the need to deep and rapid cuts BEFORE the election ... unspecified but "between March and the election". His claim that "everyone was reacting to a rapidly changing situation" really wasn't credible. So he conducted an entire campaign on a lie ... and not about a minor fringe issue. He repeated the lie in the television debates. Cable's post-coalition declaration that he suddenly realised that deep and rapid cuts were needed after meeting Mervyn King - the news of the situation in Greece apparently taking him by surprise rather damaging his reputation as an economic guru - always seemed feeble. So how many Lib Dems really had a hidden agenda all through the election? Shame on you and farewell at the next election - it will be truly impossible to believe a word of any future Lib Dem manifesto.

  • Comment number 95.

    I found that programme somewhat amazing. How could a Labour negotiation team walk into talks with the Lib Dems and have absolutely no idea beforehand what they were willing to negotiate? Ed Balls even said he didn't know who else was on the team...?! What kind of slapdash operation were they running? Presumably they had read the opinion polls and knew that unless something incredible happened they were going to lose. The best they could hope for was that the Tories would not win an outright majority and then their only hope of power was a deal with the Lib Dems. How on earth had they not planned for this? The incompetence is breathtaking.
    But whilst that was almost farcical, the concluding part of the programme on Gordon Brown's resignation angered rather than bemused me.
    Gordon Brown seemed to think that he could resign the office of Prime Minister whenever he felt like it: i.e. as soon as he was convinced that the Labour party were not going to be in power and the Lib/Lab coalition was not going to occur. I'm sorry, but that is not how it works. He was not the Prime Labour Minister, he was the Prime Minister to the Queen and by extension to the United Kingdom. His primary obligation was to the country and not to his party. He had a duty to stay on in office as long as it took for a stable government to be ready to take over, for the good of the country and however difficult that might have been for him personally. His wounded pride should not have been a consideration or concern for the civil service or the Palace: they should have been able to rely on his understanding of the duty of his office and I was honestly surprised and appalled that they could not.

    I'm afraid I've revised down my opinion both of Gordon Brown and the Labour party. That's tricky, because it was a rather lowly opinion in the first place.

  • Comment number 96.

    I believed about half of it. Am I a mug?

  • Comment number 97.

    "It's a great time to be tory"

    What is a tory? I think that Cameron is really pleased that he has a coalition government. He didn't want to be an old fashioned tory. They kept quiet, hoping to win the election outright and then would have spent three of the next five years trying to reassert their influence. With a coalition, which could crumble in days, they have to behave themselves or they may not get anything at all. I think we are seeing the birth of the New Tories. The danger is that just as New Labour relied on Blair and crumbled when he made mistakes (Iraq), will the same happen with the New Tories and Cameron?

    The old Tories were partly responsible for the last few years of New Labour, because they did not provide a viable alternative. I hope that Labour gets its act together and quickly provides a viable alternative. That doesn't mean that I want the coalition to collapse, but when it approaches its sell by date, it stays in power for lack of an alternative. It is in that era that most damage gets done.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    95. ive_had_my_weetabix

    I found that programme somewhat amazing. How could a Labour negotiation team walk into talks with the Lib Dems and have absolutely no idea beforehand what they were willing to negotiate? Ed Balls even said he didn't know who else was on the team...?! What kind of slapdash operation were they running?
    =============================================

    The same slapdash operation they had been running for the previous 13 years in government. Slapdash, spin, smear, stealth tax, spend and survival.

  • Comment number 100.

    12. At 09:22am on 29 Jul 2010, RedandYellowandGreennotBlue wrote:
    Seems to me like CameraOn's still working in darkness.

    So the Lie Dems saved the country by throwing their lot in with the Tories? Why, then, are they continuing to throw away their principles even after they've reached the top?

    Multicolour,

    I don't understand why people react so strongly to the LibDem decision to form a coalition.

    The LibDems have pushed for proportional representation for years.

    In such electoral systems, it is highly probable that no singl;e party will gain a full majority - e.g. Germany.

    So what happens? The individual parties set out their political stalls to attract voters. Then, when there is no clear majority, individual parties negotiate to see whether they can form a coalition that requires various aspects of their agenda to be put aside or modified.

    That's what happens in Germany almost every time.
    That's the impact of proportional representation.

    If the LibDems had refused to join a coalition, they would - in effect - have rejected the very outcome they have pushed for for decades.

    So what is wrong with 2 parties reaching compromises?

    That's exactly what has happened in Germany for decades.

    So why is that any sort of renunciation of the LibDem principles?

 

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