Remarkable, the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson’s ability to assemble a large cast for his Five Days That Changed Britain TV programme of how the Conservative & Lib Dem coalition government was formed.
Nick provides interesting detail on the making of the programme in A leap in the dark, and Tim Montgomerie has some useful notes on who said what.
Full of cameo interviews from most of the key players in the drama, that is all except one notable absentee, Gordon Brown. Nothing new there I imagine you conclude. What a missed opportunity for Gordon to be reflective and statesmanlike.
My star of the show was William Hague, all smiles, insight, and openness. What a change from the earnestness of David Miliband as Foreign Secretary. Hague’s lovely imaginings of what Gordon Brown, in No 10, was thinking, while the coalition discussions were taking place just yards away in the Cabinet Office.
From watching the interviews it’s easy to conclude that Labour’s players were all about grievance, while Conservatives and Lib Dems were about opportunity. Openness – that’s what Labour’s players seemed to lack; Ed Balls all indignant grievance; and from Lord Mandleson such carefully chosen words, but never quite enough to expose the truth.
The Liberal Democrats – Clegg, Laws, Ashdown, and Hughes, all impressive. Ming Campbell less so, showing a sense of loss of what might have been.
How interesting that the Civil Service, and especially its head Sir Gus O’Donnell, had prepared for a coalition outcome, and urged on the discussions. Fed up, probably, of Gordon Brown’s indecision.
Finally, about Cameron. I think he’s showing the essential difference between Tories and all other parties, and that is while Conservatives have values and principles, the key difference is intelligent pragmatism. For a lifelong political people-watcher like me, this programme was fun. Nick Robinson, ignore all your critics, well done.
PS: Caught a bit of the Newsnight discussion on the programme, in which Ed Miliband offered the now normal Labour denial of the need for change. And he’s second favourite for the Labour leadership. Hmmm – Labour, you’ll have to find better than a Miliband to lead you.