Coalition

I have just seen the Channel 4 TV play, Coalition, about the circumstances and events that led to the formation of the Con-Dem coalition in 2010. It is written by James Graham who also wrote “This House” about the Labour Government, from 1974-79. Not bad! Others have spoken of the magical portrayal by Mark Gatciss of Peter Mandelson. My highlights are the complex illustration of Gus O’Donnell, who starts the play trying to control the negotiations and the outgoing government but whose last words are to admonish Jeremy Heyward (his eventual successor) for suggesting that electoral reform wouldn’t answer the problem of the vacuity of political choice. (It’d be interesting to know how accurate these and other speeches are.)

I was also impressed with the words used from Brown’s resignation speech, to make Britain, “fairer, more tolerant, greener, more democratic, more prosperous and more just”.

There’s a speech from Clegg about winning and losing the election, on votes and seats. If true, and provided he remains Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Democrats, these words may come to haunt him. He asked how could a defeated leader continue as Prime Minister and how could a coalition of the second and third placed parties have a legitimacy. While Labour have not spoken in public about their plans should they need to talk to the LibDems, I certainly don’t feel that it would be respectful to the electorate for Clegg to just make a new coalition with himself as DPM. One of the arguments against proportional voting systems is that it would embed the centre in parliament, possibly irrespective of their popularity. The centre party would need to be much more sensitive to the politics of the nation then any of today’s parties would seem to be. Coalitions in the UK have been acts of change, an incumbent government has never lost an election and sustained themselves through power sharing, at least not since universal suffrage. The play also alleges that the LibDem demand for Brown’s resignation was a ploy, but the extent to which it had democratic legitimacy, makes a Labour Party with parliamentary plurality, refusing to work with Clegg both a quid pro quo and an important democratic precedent.

The play also shows that it was Labour and Gordon Brown that pulled the plug on the negotiations, I have always felt that the LibDems got a bad deal. This may be one of the reasons why.

Coalition

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