2 Jun 2010

Was this when coalition love first bloomed?

At the height of the MPs expenses scandal, the then Commons Speaker Michael Martin – himself under siege – agreed a meeting with the three main Westminster party leaders.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg met in a crisis session with the Speaker in his Commons rooms.

Senior Tory sources have disclosed that when the meeting convened, Gordon Brown offered what we now know to have been his stock-in-trade.

He immediately produced his papers listing in large bold letters his own multi point system for redeeming the reputation of the Commons.

As was his wont, Brown would brook neither questioning nor challenge to his edict. Exasperated, Clegg and Cameron found themselves cast in alliance against the bulldozing Brown.

My sources say that this was the first time that they began to forge coherent political co-operation and in conversations afterwards realised that they had enough in common to do some serious talking.

Will history one day judge that the intransigent over-bearing Brown became the unwitting midwife of the eventual birth of coalition politics in Britain?

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32 reader comments

  1. paul begley says:

    It’s interesting how the “two Browns” continue to fascinate. He did do one or two things that we (well Jon and I, anyway) would approve of – eg his actions and influence regarding overseas aid and Third World debt. Now and then he looked very different from the irascible monster we were usually treated to – I’m thinking of his speech to the campaigners for a living wage towards the end of the election campaign. I wonder how much of this had to do with being internally conflicted by the compromises a genuine socialist would have had to make to be part of New Labour? One small clue, from the interview with GMTV a few days before the election. Asked what he would do when he left office, his reply “something for charities ….. I won’t get involved with business – I want to do something good.” Hard to square that with Blair’s well-known liking for rich people.

    1. the-Richard-of-Nottingham says:

      “something for charities ….. I won’t get involved with business – I want to do something good.”

      Lovely soundbite. Let’s see where he is in 3 years time.

  2. adz says:

    GB seems to be a fair man although definitely not up to being a PM.
    Due to his fairness he probably did try and bring the three parties together to help resolve a national scandal. Was the MPs expenses scandal the begining of a coalition government? I’m not sure it was. The fact of the matter is that politics in our country has taken a mega nose dive with politicians needing each other through “difficult times”.
    Labour, Tory or Liberal, it doesn’t matter. What is important to these men & women, is that they limit the damage in any way they can which includes being buddies all of a sudden!
    Amongst other very important issues, they’ve forgotten about our good old british milkman who is in the midst of dissapearing forever. Tragedy!
    adzmundo The Venus Project & CND

  3. Saltaire Sam says:

    What a great theory. And it could just be true because so much of Gordon’s life seems to have resulted in unforseen consequences which were the opposite of what he intended.

    He truly is a tragic character of Shakespearian proportions

    1. Andy Pandy says:

      Not a theory according to Jon’s two separate sources.

  4. akamrburns says:

    Yes, I think history might well reach this conclusion. I have heard that many of those who worked with him considered him to be psychotic – which would go a long way to explaining his difficulty with social interaction. I think he was particularly frustrated by this shortcoming. Whether this frustration led to the development of his bullying disposition is open to question. GB is a very able man, but he is not a leader.
    The fact that he was ever elected leader of the Labour party has never ceased to amaze me. What does it say about the Labour politicians at the time…did they have a mind of their own…did they just assume that the crown should be his…or were they just steamrollered by the ‘Brown mafia’? Their inability to chose a leader who could communicate, who was ‘marketable’ to the electorate and who had some understanding of the art of ‘showmanship’ lost them a fourth term.

    1. Margaretbj says:

      That is unfair, totally unfair. If you had a hint of sensible thinking in your opinion portfolio, you would see that the psychotic remark is totally out of order.

      As much as I feel that this man believed fervently in what he was doing, passion and anger is not in any way, in his case, alligned to psychosis.

    2. akamrburns says:

      The point about GB being psychotic is not an opinion, I am merely reporting what I have heard from sources who believed it to be the case – and were in a position to know.

    3. Margaretbj says:

      Apologies , I have had a similar accusation of believing in a citation, when really I was being objective.

      I suppose we ought to use quotes and citations to back up our own stance, however most of us look at many sides and ponder ourselves on truths. P.S. My high flying philosophy lecturer said there are not MANY truths… only one truth?

    4. Mel says:

      I agree with you in your remark of what lost them the fourth term. And when GB stood on the steps making his speech the admittance of his flaws I don’t think can ever be forgotten. That took some gutz and some humbleness.
      But maybe when they chose GB they were hoping for something more from the public than what they got. Maybe they were hoping that we would have the sense to want a highly intelligent leader, a man of great ability in theory and planning, a man of great understanding of the economy and creativity in it’s policies and that we would be sensible enough to vote for intelligence and ability and not showmanship and good looks. Maybe it is not the Labour party that let us down maybe it us that let them down.

  5. Margaretbj says:

    I suppose that when two like parties are under pressure from a door which won’t open , then an alternative entrance must be found .Mr Brown had already made his intention clear re his own exit ,as highlighted in your links on May 10th the and 12th but surely there must have been a build up to this, as time ensued,

    We can remember Gordon saying that the other two were like his boys squabbling at bathtime, which lumped them together as the same ‘type’ and ostracised himself.

    Although I highly recommend love thy neighbour, the coalition between Clegg and Cameron was born out of age similarity, type similarity, and frustration. GB was more than ready to relinquish his power , but couldn’t focus on the separation between a job having been done and that which was needed to be done.

    If love hasn’t bloomed between them ,it should , all things are improved with a creative spirit.

  6. adrian clarke says:

    An interesting analysis.Perhaps the first seeds were sown at that meeting .Maybe they will grow into a giant British Oak,the like of previous ones that provided the timbers for our ships that produced Great Britain.
    Im years to come i might be able to tell my grand daughter , I voted for that:)

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      Hang on, Adrian. I seem to remember – and my memory could be flawed, it often is these days – that you, like Cameron, argued that a hung parliament would be a disaster for Britain.

      Now you are claiming that while voting for tory extremism, you really wanted to get liberal moderation, a working relationship with Europe and higher Capital Gains Tax?

      Mr Fukuyama clearly got it completely wrong – the recent election appears to be becoming the beginning of history

      I can’t wait for the leaders’ debates in the next election when Cameron and Clegg try to put the blame for all that’s gone wrong on each other while claiming credit for anything (not much) that has gone right. They will be even more like Gordon Brown’s wee boys than ever

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire that was pure fantasy on my part for the sake of the blog, lol and you sussed me out :)

  7. Marverde says:

    Birds of a feather…

    I’ve heard that Murdoch had “a private meeting” with the new PM and that The Sun did a multiple-page article on the Camerons (without once mentioning the coalition). If that is right, what price has the country paid? Is the BBC in danger of being “sliced”?

    1. Tom Wright says:

      While Murdoch is definitely a poweful man, I think we sometimes imagine he’s rather more powerful than he is.

      Is the Sun’s editorial line a reflection of the public mood or a driver of it? . . . Both? it publicly changed from a highly supportive stance with Blair, to critical of Brown to endorsing the Tories. But we still didn’t get a Tory majority.

      To use a pun worthy of the big red top, perhas the sun has set on the power of newspapers barons. I hope so.

  8. Meg Howarth says:

    Quite possibly, must be the answer to your question, Jon. I’d like to use this space, though, to extend the discussion from the ‘reputation of the Commons’ to that of parliament, ie, including the Lords, and suggest:

    an immediate moratorium on all new lady-/ lord-ships – including the 50+ announced last week – Gordon Brown’s dissolution birth-child and the first tranche only of a total of 172, the remainder reputed to be in the pipeline and declared over the next couple of weeks. Grateful if FactCheck could examine the figures but think this addition to the body of the unelected – with the power to make or break Commons legislation – means the house of lese majeste will be bigger than the Commons.

    The big three leaders (including the temp) cannot be expected to be taken seriously about a democratic second chamber in the future while allowing anti-democratic appointment-by-patronage to continue in the present. Not sure what Cameron has said on HoL reform but any T-party democratic credentials will be shot to pieces if its leadership stays silent on the matter of the unelected while shouting loud about its intention to reduce the number of (elected) MPs.

  9. Andy Pandy says:

    Reached his level of competence as Ch of Exc then moved to a level of incomptence as PM.

  10. John Smith says:

    It’s sad to think that someone who presumably had the interests of Britain at heart will be remembered not for his sterling work in tackling the banking crisis but for his imprudent mishandling of the UK economy.

  11. Margaretbj says:

    Are you saying that there was more than a little hubble bubble?

  12. Saltaire Sam says:

    I was gobsmacked to hear in the BBC discussions following PMQs that the idea initially is to have 200 elected members of the Lords IN ADDITION to all those who are there now.

    At the same time as increasing the Lords to nearly 1000 people, they plan to cut size of the commons. Duh.

    Presumably this will be thrown into the referendum on changing the voting system to try and make those of us who would prefer a fairer system vote against it.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Perhaps Saltaire , they are following my suggestion .A totally elected Lords , but let those existing lords/ladies keep their titles but no perks with them , including monetary perks.

    2. paul begley says:

      This is an old problem – if they set out to reform the Lords, the first step is always to appoint a raft of new Lords who can be relied on (?) to vote as the Government wishes.

  13. Marverde says:

    Well, the secret meeting did take place. And according to The Mirror :
    “No 10 was yesterday asked what was discussed but a spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on individual meetings.”

    Don’t you feel so much better now that we enjoy this new OPEN and TRANSPARENT government?

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Maverde i hope you do not believe the Mirror .That had GB winning the election by a landslide.

  14. Kokila Patel says:

    When NZ changed from first past the post to proportional representation (MMP) the leaders of the main parties found coalition negotiation hard. The natural tendency was to ride roughshod over the smaller party. Note John Key – conservative PM of NZ has kept in contact with David Cameron no doubt advising on the traps for young players

  15. Sadie says:

    Jon, would it be possible to have a ‘thumbs level’ box on Adrian Clarke and Saltaire Sam spaces on the different Blogs? With their ongoing discourse it is sometimes difficult to come down either side! – but would like to make a mark. :)

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      Sadie, you are obviously a wise and balanced woman but let your mark be a pithy comment. We two old codgers are so set, we could almost write each others remarks :-)

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire you wrote what i was going to say :).Sadie if Jon is going to do that i hope it is not biased towards the old Socialist

  16. Alexandr says:

    I am a monarchist, my political platform – a “traditional values”. But unfortunately, many people out of ignorance or deliberately misleading people. Agree, “The purpose of sound mind – the truth is absolute truth. They are eternal and unambiguous in time. We turn away from the absolute,” dissolve “it in the swill vulgar and” convenient “opinion. When mixing truth and lies. Will inevitably fall into the quagmire of lies.

    1. Margaretbj says:

      Unfortunately if you look at being as an appolonisation and attempt to tableau for convenience there will be an absolution, HOWEVER those physical and meta physical elements, if there is such a thing as the metaphysical, are continually mutating , making a truth ever change BUT down to every day convenience, lies do bastardise the truth as it has been.Does the absolute only lie in history?

  17. G says:

    Ha ha ha, it’s the Law of Unintended Consequences…

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