View Full Version : Nick Clegg 'propped up' Gordon Brown to seal Tory deal: Insider reveals Lib Dems never wanted Labor

Magda Hassan
11-14-2010, 12:06 AM
Nick Clegg 'propped up' Gordon Brown to seal Tory deal: Insider account reveals Lib Dems never wanted Coalition with Labour

By Simon Walters (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?s=y&authornamef=Simon+Walters)
Last updated at 10:38 PM on 13th November 2010

Buckingham Palace helped David Cameron and Nick Clegg keep Gordon Brown in Downing Street in the days after he lost the Election to make it easier for the Coalition to take power, a former Cabinet Minister claims tonight.
The Palace, together with the *Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders, made Mr Brown believe he still had a chance of clinging to power – even though they knew he didn’t – because it was feared he might resign too quickly and leave Britain without a Government.
The ploy to prop up Mr Brown gave Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg vital extra hours to seal their political alliance and avoided plunging the Queen into a constitutional *crisis, with no Prime Minister.


Ploy: The Lib Dems never really wanted to do a deal with Brown and be 'chained to the Labour Government's decaying corpse'

The disclosure comes in a new book by former Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws, based on secret notes of the dramatic talks between the three parties after the Election failed to produce an overall winner.


Pretty soon people will be asking 'who the hell is running this country?': David Laws gives the first account of the five days that changed Britain... (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1329221/Coalition-government-Pretty-soon-people-asking-hell-running-country--David-Laws-gives-account-days-changed-Britain-.html)

Mr Laws, a senior Liberal Democrat who was present throughout the discussions, gives the first blow-by-blow insider’s account of the high-octane and often acrimonious exchanges between the party leaders and rival negotiating teams.
His book, 22 Days In May, exclusively serialised in The Mail on *Sunday from today, reveals how:

The Lib Dems never really wanted to do a deal with Mr Brown and be ‘chained to the Labour Government’s decaying corpse’.
Ed Miliband was reduced to the role of ‘tea boy’ in the talks – and revealed that he could not upset the unions.
Peter Mandelson responded to Mr Laws’s support for a mansion tax on £2?million-plus houses by *protesting: ‘Surely the rich have suffered enough?’
When the Coalition talks stalled, panicking David Cameron exclaimed: ‘People will soon be asking who the hell is running the country.’
After being harangued by ‘impossible’ Mr Brown, Mr Clegg cried out: ‘That man!’ – and fellow Lib Dem Danny Alexander called the former Prime Minister ‘absolutely barmy’.
Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman deliberately sabotaged any prospect of a Lib-Lab pact.

The book, which makes extensive use of a near-verbatim record of the talks kept by long-serving Lib Dem aide Alison Suttie, marks Mr Laws’s return to the political limelight *following his shock resignation from the *Cabinet just weeks into the Coalition.
He was forced to step down when it emerged that the secretly gay MP had claimed £40,000 in second-home expenses for renting a room from his partner, James Lundie, a lobbyist.
As long as Mr Laws is not censured too severely when the results of an official inquiry are published, he is widely expected to return to the Cabinet within months. Mr Cameron has called him ‘a very effective politician’.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/11/13/article-1329498-07439314000005DC-519_468x362.jpg Desperate times: Mr Brown's claim that he could work with the Lib Dems was derided by Mr Laws

In his book, Mr Laws gives a vivid des*cription of the scene as desperate Mr Brown begged Mr Clegg to let Labour stay in power, not realising that exasperated Mr Clegg had already decided to do a deal with Mr Cameron.
‘Brown urged Nick to think again,’ writes Mr Laws. ‘?“It was quite embarrassing actually,” Nick reported to us later. “I was very uncomfort*able. He seemed to be pleading with me.”?’
It was at this point that Mr Brown was led to think – falsely – that Labour still had a chance of hanging on, so he did not go to the Palace and resign.
‘Everyone wanted Brown to hang on until a deal had been agreed. Britain was not supposed to be left without a Government,’ Mr Laws writes. Nor was it just Cameron and Clegg who pulled the wool over Mr Brown’s eyes: the Palace and Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell were involved too.
‘The Civil Service, the Palace, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives all wanted Brown to remain in place so that the handover of power happened seamlessly. It just about worked.’
The Queen’s linkman to the negotiations was her private secretary Christopher Geidt, who was monitoring the progress of the Tory-Lib Dem talks in the Cabinet Office.
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/11/13/article-1329498-0C0E009A000005DC-411_233x423.jpg In the thick of it: David Laws

Mr Geidt, a former Foreign Office mandarin, was briefed to observe proceedings and keep the Queen informed.
He was to protect her by advising her to appoint a new Prime Minister only when a decision was ‘clear and uncontroversial’.
By mid-afternoon on the Tuesday, when Mr Brown realised that the Lib Dems were heading for a deal with the Tories, he was impatient to resign – but Mr Geidt told him that, constitutionally, he had to hold off until a formal pact had been confirmed.
When Mr Brown finally went to the Queen later that day to resign, Mr Geidt was waiting to meet him.
Even from the very start of the negotiations, Mr Clegg was irritated by the way Mr Brown went ‘on and on’ at him.
As the former Prime Minister listed Labour policies, Mr Clegg interrupted him: ‘No! No! Don’t. Please don’t! I know where you are heading. I have to start with the *Conservatives, I gave that pledge.’
Mr Clegg made it clear to Mr Brown that a Lib-Lab deal was unlikely. ‘How could our parties overcome the accusations about two parties which came second and third forming a government, and could we actually form a stable government? I don’t want to trip up over my own shoelaces on this,’ he said.
After another bout of hectoring by Mr Brown, ‘Nick put the phone down and groaned, “That man!”?’
Mr Laws derides Mr Brown’s claim that he could work with the Lib Dems. ‘It sounded like a script that someone else had written. The great Labour tribalist was making a deathbed conversion to the benefits of co-operation with another party.’
By contrast, Mr Clegg and Mr Cam*eron hit it off straight away. Mr Laws says of the talks with the Tories: ‘We sat around a conference table surveying each other with the surprise of people who had known each other for years and suddenly found themselves at the altar, having never quite seen the possibility.’
On top of the difficulty of dealing with Mr Brown, Mr Laws says the Labour negotiating team was split into ‘two separate teams – one wanted a deal, the other didn’t’. Lord Mandelson was ‘sceptical’ though amenable and Lord Adonis was keen. But there was a ‘gulf of enthusiasm’ between them and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Harriet Harman.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/11/13/article-1329498-09A397B9000005DC-525_468x378.jpg Partnership: Clegg was irritated by Brown's 'embarrassing' pleas for a deal. By contrast, he and Cameron hit it off straight away

Mr Laws says Mr Balls killed off any chance of Labour backing voting reforms, calling it ‘a calculated wrecking device’. He writes: ‘It was clear that if we went into *coalition with Labour, we would not be establishing a new government, we would be chaining ourselves to a decaying corpse.
‘The Conservatives had treated us as another Opposition party on an equal footing. The Labour team, certainly the Eds and Harriet, treated us to policy lectures.’
Ed Miliband was reduced to tea boy during the talks. ‘Someone suggested we needed refreshments, and Miliband stumped up the money for teas and pastries. It was about the first financial concession that Labour had made to us,’ Mr Laws writes.
More embarrassingly, Mr Laws reveals how the talks highlighted Mr Miliband’s close links with the unions, whose votes got him elected as Labour leader. ‘When I raised public sector pensions reform, Miliband looked horrified. “Oh no,” he said. “We cannot go further than our existing agreements with the unions.”?’
The disclosures by Mr Laws follow separate damaging claims that Mr Clegg secretly planned to drop his pledge to scrap university tuition fees months before polling day.

Jan Klimkowski
11-14-2010, 02:58 PM
Tangential to the thread but....

Peter Mandelson responded to Mr Laws’s support for a mansion tax on £2?million-plus houses by *protesting: ‘Surely the rich have suffered enough?’

From the same self-styled Prince of Darkness who declared: "We (Labour) are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich".

Mandelson and a Rothschild recently collaborated on a supposedly "fly on the wall" documentary which was, of course, nothing of the sort:

Mandelson – The Real PM? keeps the prince in the darkness

Hannah Rothschild's portrait of Peter Mandelson leaves our perceptions of the master manipulator intact. Has she failed?

For their surprise screening, the Sheffield documentary festival programmers made an astute choice. Doc-makers like to believe their craft can lay bare truths beyond the reach of other disciplines. What, though, when the camera's turned upon a past master of media manipulation? Will its gaze penetrate the firewall that its subject is bound to throw up? Or will he succeed in demonstrating that this genre too can be spun?

Such was the challenge that Hannah Rothschild took on when she asked Lord Mandelson to let her be a fly on his wall during the slow expiration of the last government. For this joust, she was no mean contender: she has 20 years' experience of construing people both on screen and in print. The terms of engagement weren't bad. She'd have to lay off Mandy's private life (supposedly out of consideration for his partner, Reinaldo), but as much of his political life as lay under his own control would be thrown open to the camera.

Over the eight months up until last June, Rothschild shot 250 hours of footage. From this she constructed Mandelson - The Real PM? The title is deliberately ambiguous. Rothschild calls Mandelson "PM" throughout the film, and wanted to explore both the extent of the Dark Lord's power and the makeup of his soul. He, as she acknowledges, wanted to get her to paint a portrait of himself as he wants the world to see him.

The character who emerges on screen is entirely extraordinary. Mandelson ignores the code of polite fiction behind which other politicians hide. He openly revels in the power he wields, likening himself as a grant-awarding business secretary to a Bourbon prince dispensing bounty. He's convinced of his own superiority to everyone else in sight, and makes no attempt to hide it. Poor Gordon Brown, who out of desperation had begged his long-standing foe to rescue him, is treated like an unruly child. Mandelson has given up on the hair; "I just wonder why he can't tie a tie." This Mandelson is ferociously controlling, permanently disdainful, sinisterly meticulous and merciless to everyone, from dim reporters to his own spin team.

The trouble is that none of this is news. This is Mandelson as we thought he was, and the reason we thought he was like that is that he's always been out to convince us that this is what he is like. When he realised that the world viewed him as a pantomime villain, he decided that this image would do him good and set about burnishing it. His frankness to Rothschild is untypical of politicians in general, but not of him. In the run-up to the election, he was knifing his prime ministerial protegé and bugbear as elegantly in public as he was to Rothschild's camera.

At one point in the film David Cameron is referred to as "a mummy's boy". Rothschild asks Mandelson if he'd rather be thought of as a mummy's boy or a prince of darkness. His reply, "Oh definitely, a prince of darkness!" hardly comes as a surprise. Throughout the doc's 75 minutes (and presumably his 250 hours in the eye of the camera) there's hardly a moment in which its protagonist doesn't seem to be framing not just his utterances but his gestures, mannerisms and facial expressions for the benefit of the omnipresent lens.

After the screening, Rothschild said she'd known Mandelson would be camera-savvy, but she'd hoped that because she'd be around for eight months, he'd forget that she was there and she would "pick up bits". So what bits did she think that she'd picked up? She offered me two examples. One came when Mandy tosses an empty yoghurt pot to an aide. This, according to Rothschild, demonstrates his "imperiousness". The other came when he's hanging up a shirt. This, she said, shows his "absolute attention to minute detail". Neither of these qualities is a revelation. Nor does it seem likely that Mandelson would have been discomfited by the disclosure of either incident.

We don't learn whether Mandy was pulling the strings of government, because we only see his side of the phone calls. Rothschild says she thinks he wasn't, but I needed to ask her to find that out. As for discovering what the real Mandelson is like, all we have to go on is the Mandelson that Mandelson himself presents with so much care. Does this mean that the film fails to uncover the man behind the mask? When I put this to Rothschild, she came back with a thought-provoking answer.

It's that there isn't anything behind the mask. Does Mandelson lie awake at night racked by self-doubt? Does he fear that his compulsive preening damaged the party he says he loves? Is he soaked in remorse for wrecking our politics by installing the culture of spin? Does he resent having been forced to deploy his genius on behalf of masters less deserving than himself? Does he puzzle over what it all meant? Rothschild reckons not. "I don't think he's a multi-layered, philosophical human being," she says. "What you see on that screen is who he is."

She may be right. Unfortunately, we shall never know. The camera shows what the camera can. Sheffield's opening film, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work gave the impression that it had got to the heart of its subject. Yet this was only because its subject seemed to want it to. In the end, documentary-makers can reveal only what those who grant them access choose to let them observe. That may or may not be all there is to see.

And there there's "Mandelson's Rothschild and Russian pals":