Coalition talks

Political historians will be raking over May’s coalition talks for many years to come to establish an ever deeper level of detail and nuance.

We already know a fair amount about the talks that took place between a Lib Dem team of negotiators and their counterparts from the Tory and Labour parties. Yet there are still various interpretations of how the discussions played out.

This morning I watched David Laws and Lord Adonis give their subtly different versions of events five months after they occurred. Read more

Senior Labour figures including John Reid and David Blunkett spoke out against a Lib-Lab coalition during the post-election talks. Now we know that Tony Blair was equally sceptical about the idea, thanks to Mandelson’s memoirs in the Times.

According to Mandy, “Blair was firmly oppposed to even thinking about a deal with the Lib Dems.” It would be a serious error that prompted an outcry, he argued. Labour would be “smashed” at the next election. A few days later Blair repeated that it would be a “constitutional outrage“.

The book also reveals that David Miliband and Alistair Darling were firmly against the talks. The national mood at the time was fairly unsympathetic to the idea of Labour – and not only Brown – remaining in Downing Street.

Mandelson says that when Gordon Brown first started discussing the idea of working with the “Liberals” the peer said to him: “If you’re serious perhaps you should stop calling them the Liberals and get their name right.”

There is also a great line about Clegg finding Brown “bullying” and “uncongenial“: In fact Brown had been in what passed for his “listening mode“, according to the peer. It makes you wonder what he was like on a bad day. Read more

There are some good reasons why no politician would be able to deliver electoral reform in this parliament, even if they wanted to. These five points should be a reality check for all those dreaming of an electoral reform pact:

1) Winning the referendum is by no means certain According to the latest polls, reform is supported by around 46 per cent. But I’d expect that the 37 per cent who oppose it may find it easier to convince a majority to stick with Britain’s “ancient” first past the post system. Pity the politician who is asked to sell the D’Hondt formula for calculating seats under PR. Read more