Lab-Lib coalition

Jim Pickard

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

Jim Pickard

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. Read more