I spent tonight catching up on some television. Nick Robinson’s “Five Days that Changed Britain” is an enjoyable, breezy tour through the coalition negotiations. I’m not sure it tells us anything we didn’t know already; for me it confirmed the views I put forward here.
Given the unattractiveness of the other options, I don’t think Clegg had any choice but to enter coalition with the Conservatives. Anyone who keeps bleating that the Lib Dems entered the coalition seems to ignore this simple point: what else would you have done in Clegg’s position? None of them have a convincing answer.
I must admit, I had no idea how cack-handed Labour’s coalition arrangements were. Here’s my transcript, from about 22 minutes in:
Nick Robinson: The Lib Dems must have seen an extraordinary contrast. The Tories had presented them with a detailed policy document with 11 separate policy positions with a series of compromises, whereas the Labour Party came in with not very much.
Peter Mandelson: Well, they may have been prepared for the possibility of a hung Parliament and coalition, which we were certainly not prepared for.
Sometimes you have to love Mandelson’s sliminess. He is obviously trying to imply that, “we didn’t prepare for a hung Parliament because we were confident of winning the election”. In actual fact, as he later “revealed” in his memoirs, they may not have prepared for an entirely different reason.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, proposed at a cabinet meeting last October that the party should fight the election around the three Fs of Future, Family, and Fairness.
Darling suggested the campaign should be dubbed “fucked”, Alexander proposed “futile”, and Mandelson opted for “finished”.
Ed Balls, part of the negotiating team, also confirmed that Labour prepared nothing in advance, had no negotiating document and didn’t even know who would be in the room with him. These facts just confirm what I’ve been driving at since the coalition was formed: Labour was not, and is still not, fit to govern.
On this theme, Ed Miliband was on Newsnight this week accusing Lib Dems of reneging on some pre-election promises. Amongst these was the VAT rise (fair enough) but he also claimed that the Lib Dems said they wouldn’t “prop up the Tories”.
I’m not quite sure what he is getting at there, except incoherent spluttering. Seeing as Nick Clegg was quite clear that he would first open negotiations with whichever party had a popular mandate, what else was he supposed to do? Ed Miliband, and Labour, needs to grow up.