Saturday, 7 August 2010

Five Days that Changed Britain

The Five Days that Changed Britain is a recent BBC documentary exploring the political wrangling that took place between the General Election (on May 5th) and the formation of the Coalition Government.

Being a report by those deeply involved the report can't be taken at face value, of course there's spin especially from Lord Mandelson, but one point that cannot be refuted is that we now have a coalition; why?

It is reported that the Conservative Party considered forming a minority government if they won more than 300 seats (3.29). In fact they won 307. So why did they end up making a deal with the Liberal Democrats?

Enter what I see as the biggest scoop from the interviews forming this report; Sir Augustine Thomas "Gus" O'Donnell.

Sir Gus is Cabinet Secretary, head of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office. He is not a political figure, but a civil servant, however he had a significant part to play in the formation of the Coalition.

In interview he admits (7.30) that despite having role played exactly the scenario encountered in the election results, they couldn't come to a "good conclusion". Is this a civil servant showing political preference?

Then he admits that a "good conclusion" is just not a bad conclusion, Britain's top civil servant was opposed to a minority government. This is because a minority government wouldn't be strong enough. But really? Was this just scaremongering?

Either way, whatever your opinion of the coalition or of the macroeconomic effects of a minority government, this strongly implies that pressure was put on the political parties to form a coalition (12.45). An agreement was "expected", and was "facilitated" by Sir Gus, who "said that ... the more comprehensive an agreement, the better".

From this point on it seems that there is little doubt that a coalition will be formed, the only question remaining is how much give and take is there between policies. And so a coalition appeared from the maelstrom, to audible sighs of relief from Sir Gus.

Five Days that Changed Britain will be available from the BBC iPlayer until Tuesday, 10th August. More information, links, and Nick Robinson's thoughts are available via here.

Interestingly this was picked up in New Zealand.

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