September 2017
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Subjective:

I’d heard good things about ‘5 Days To Power‘, the book detailing the 5 days of negotiations that followed this year’s General Election before the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats finally formed their coalition government. So I ordered it, and I enjoyed it – written by Tory MP Rob Wilson, he obviously has access, which gives it a veneer of authenticity. However, I was surprised (although I maybe shouldn’t have been) by the subtext underneath the prose. To put it concisely, Cameron is wonderful (as is Osborne) and Brown is crap.

I’m going to give a couple of examples. The first comes just after Nick Clegg has explained to Cameron that the Libs are going to open negotiations with the Labour Party because they’re going to offer more with regards to electoral reform. Wilson’s book explains how Cameron decided that the Tories had to offer the Libs an olive branch regarding AV because,

“Cameron felt it was his duty to the right thing and ultimately, his and his party’s duty was to try to give the country a decent government that trumped it’s own self interest in the elected system that suited it best.”

Not because they had been out of power for 13 years and were desperate to get back in, despite them having not actually won the election, then?

A couple of pages later, we see Brown announcing formally that the Labour Party and the Lib Dems were going to open negotiations.

“With breathtaking audacity bordering on arrogance, Brown asserted that the general election results indicated not a defeat for Labour but the existence of a ‘progressive majority in Britain’.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. As I say, it’s a book by a Tory MP, published by a leading Tory blogger. Unfortunately, I felt that Wilson’s personal agenda coloured the book. It’s still a great record of how the two parties cooked up the deal that led to the Coalition, but its a long way from being a factual journal of the events.

It’s not even consistent in its criticism. In summing up at the end of the book, one of the criticism Wilson lays at Brown is that ‘he was too slow to go’. Thirty pages previously, Wilson had explained that Brown was not allowed to leave until it was clear that the Leader of the Opposition could form a government. In fact, Wilson quotes William Hague as saying “I think he should have stayed a few hours longer and gone in an orderly fashion. Rushing out was just face-saving. He could have gone the next morning.”

Obviously I’m not particularly sympathetic to the coalition, but I would have been very interested in a factual explanation of how we ended up with the government that we did. This is a one-sided explanation, but it’s fatally hampered by that limitation. We’re probably a few years away from getting a balanced view, and I suspect that will only be delivered by somebody not directly involved in the negotiations.

2 comments to Subjective:

  • I imagine Andrew Rawnsley will have a humdinger of a book on this eventually, especially if it all ends up collapsing into recriminations and backstabbery.

  • SM

    You might think that, but as far as I can tell, he’s only got the contacts within Labour, so he probably won’t be able to get close enough to the Coalition.

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