Andrew Adonis’s account of the days after the public voted in a hung Parliament in 2010 have already received a rightful savaging by Andrew Stunell. Given that we already know the Mandelson/Balls preparation for coalition talks with the Liberal Democrats was a quick cup of tea, you might think that not even Andrew Adonis’s account could make Labour’s preparation for a hung Parliament look even more amateurish or non-existent. Yet his 5 Days In May manages that.
His book kicks off with a complaint from Peter Mandelson that his attempt to sound out Paddy Ashdown on a hung Parliament in advance of the election by walking up to him in public on a train and starting to chat resulted in Paddy hot-footing it to the toilets rather than staying to talk.
Imagine Paddy had stayed sat there, chatting away happily. Imagine then the political gossip stories that could so easily and so damagingly have spun off reports of that encounter. If someone walks away from you when you walk up to them in public like that, you shouldn’t blame them, you should thank them for showing some basic common sense.
But even if the train carriage had been completely empty of other people, why would Mandelson have expected a Liberal Democrat to stay and chat meaningfully? After all, remember what happened to Ming Campbell when Gordon Brown tried talking to him about a coalition back in the early days of his government? Someone in Labour leaked the story at a time and in a way designed to maximise the damage to the Liberal Democrats.
When you’re own party has such a record of setting out to deliberately sabotage such talks, only someone who expects others to have no more of a memory span than a goldfish (life possibly saved by the Lib Dems) would then take umbrage at someone being reluctant to place themselves in an embarrassing situation again.
For Andrew Adonis’s complaints about the Liberal Democrats to start with a moan that Paddy Ashdown showed both basic common sense and the merest hint of a memory shows how weak they are.
Don’t blame the Lib Dems for Labour lack of preparation and unwillingness to deal fairly with other parties, Andrew. If you want a different outcome from a future hung Parliament, you need to get your own party in order.
An apology: I apologise, of course, to goldfish for repeating the myth that they have short memories.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.