The Times has not yet published online the first instalment of Mandelson’s diaries; but we can glean some of their content from that newspaper’s editorial for tomorrow morning.
Apparently, during the post-election coalition talks, Mandelson’s negotiating team was given an ultimatum by Clegg that a Lab-Lib coalition would be impossible unless Brown stepped down.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard this story*, but never before on the record from one of the negotiators. As the Times suggests, the idea leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth (whether or not you admire Brown); the leader of the third party proposing that Britain should be led by a prime minister a] not from the party with the most seats and b] who hadn’t led that party during the general election.
Mandy also claims that the Lib Dems called for AV without any referendum as a condition of a deal; a prospect which would horrify some (though not all) observers.
It’s possible though – presuming the peer is telling the truth – that this is merely proof that the Lib Dems always preferred the idea of dealing with the Tories. And therefore issued demands which could and would not be met by Labour.
* Clegg made it clear he didn’t want Brown “squatting in Downing Street” in late April. On May 8 Jon Sopel of the BBC reported that an enraged Brown had told Clegg over the phone that he would not resign to cement a Lab-Lib deal.