22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition

David Runciman writes:

Laws describes the various meetings that took place in the days following the election between the Lib Dem negotiating team and its Labour counterparts, to see if they could thrash out a deal. On the Labour side, Laws’s old friend (and a former Liberal Democrat) Andrew Adonis was still keen to explore the options but the rest of them just didn’t seem that interested. Peter Mandelson was detached (‘Surely the rich have suffered enough,’ he says at one point, when Laws tries to find some common ground on progressive taxation), Harriet Harman was distracted, Ed Balls was truculent. Worst of all was Ed Miliband, portrayed here as someone who seemed to think that the Labour Party should be above this sort of thing. 22 Days in May is a highly partisan account from an ardent supporter (and briefly a member) of the coalition government. Still, if it’s even half-true, it’s enough to send a chill through anyone who thought that Ed Miliband was leadership material. He comes across as whiny and complacent, entirely preoccupied with Labour’s internal affairs and his own place within them. By comparison, Ed Balls, who has acquired a reputation as the wrecker of these discussions, is simply a grumpy realist with no appetite for something he doesn’t think he can sell.

(LRB 16 December 2010)

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