This is the actual agenda which David Cameron had in front of him at Conservative HQ when he spoke to Nick Clegg for the first time after the election, at around 4pm on Friday May 7th:
POINTS FOR NICK CLEGG
– Note of appreciation for tone and content of his statement
-Wanted to reciprocate – hope you have recognised that in my statement
-Three aims for this conversation:
- Discuss process for negotiations
- Discuss team on each side [ours is GO, WH, OL, EL]: Yours?
- Discuss timing [we would like to start this evening]]
- Venue: Gus has offered 70 Whitehall, Admiralty House or Portcullis House. Your view?
How do I know this? Well, it is what popped up on screen during the excellent Nick Robinson documentary “Five Days that changed Britain” which is available on BBC iPlayer here.
The agenda was shown as part of a Conservative party video, showing what was on the screen in front of David Cameron during that conversation.
It’s amazing what you can do with a screenshot.
Other things which struck me about the programme were:
- The big role played by Vince Cable and Menzies Campbell in talking to Gordon Brown to try to see if a Lab-Lib coalition could be formed. Because of their background of previous association with Brown in Scotland, Cable and Campbell at least ensured that such a possibility received a decent attempt.
- The fact that Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson used an old wartime tunnel (built for Churchill) to evade the press in journeying from Number 10, Downing Street to the House of Commons to see Nick Clegg. Imagine them squeezing through this confined tunnel, passing pipes and ducts…It has a touch of pure theatre about it. I wonder if Peter Mandelson wore a black cloak? No doubt we’ll see this episode enacted in the film someone is planning!
- After Brown resigned on the Monday, although he had removed a roadblock (himself), paradoxically his resignation left no real leadership for the Labour negotiation team. They seemed to be all over the place.
- During the programme, Ed Balls poured out vitriol after vitriol about Nick Clegg. Balls came across as extremely bitter and, I would suggest, positively bitchy about Nick Clegg. Indeed, a moment for Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer to get their handbags out for. In contrast, Andrew Adonis was relatively restrained and Peter Mandelson was positively sanguine about the whole thing.
- It is quite clear that David Cameron acted with extraordinary leadership and vision when he made his 7th May speech in Smith Square. He could have just fudged the whole thing and tried to form a minority government. But his “big, open and comprehensive” offer to the Liberal Democrats was in fact quite a leap in the dark which required great courage and clear sightedness on his part. I suspect that the prospect of Gordon Brown hobbling on in power must have concentrated his mind.
- David Cameron also showed great leadership when he made his speech in front of the door of 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, 11th May when he reiterated that he aimed to form a full coaltion with the Liberal Democrats. At that stage, this was not at all clear. So again, he was taking a bit of bungee jump into a bank of fog. At that time, he wasn’t sure whether he would have to go back to the Queen in the morning to tell her he was going to form a minority givernment. Such is the power of the Liberal Democrat Federal Executive and Parliamentary party (;-)) which had to meet late that evening to endorse the deal.
- Gordon Brown forced the timing of the handover of government. Nick Clegg asked for more time but Brown insisted on going to the Palace on Tuesday at around 7pmish. In fairness, I think Gordon Brown was entitled to some dignity. Leaving under cover of darkness would have blighted his reputation for the rest of his life and, indeed, blighted his obituaries. I had previously assumed that the men in suits and tights (civil servants) had pushed the timing of the handover. But in fact, the programme made clear that HM Queen’s private secretary wanted to give Nick Clegg more time – and Nick Clegg wanted more time.