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Highlights from BBC2's review of the Coalition negotiations

By Tim Montgomerie

Highlights, not verbatim, of tonight's BBC2 programme on the negotiations that followed May 5th's indecisive election result.

5days Nick Robinson: Cameron should have been sure of victory. He wasn't expecting the scenario that greeted him on election night.

Lord Mandelson: I was impressed by Cameron's generous post-election day offer to the Liberal Democrats. Brown, in contrast, thought it looked like weakness.

Simon Hughes: During the negotiations, the Tories were handing us fruit off the tree at a speed that was almost too good to be true.

Paddy Ashdown: Would you like us to give up this policy?, offered the Tories. We've been trying to get rid off this for some time, they said.

Ming Campbell: Labour provided a more natural arrangement for the Liberal Democrats.

Ed Balls: Labour wasn't prepared for negotiations. We had no negotiating strategy.

Nick Clegg: I was surprised by the negotiations with the Conservatives. They went better than I had expected and quickly realised that they could go far.

Ed Balls (on an early stage of talks): Nick Clegg told Gordon Brown that Labour and the LibDems were the two progressive parties in British politics and LibDem members would leave in droves if he formed a pact with the Conservatives.

David Cameron: I was "absolutely certain" Labour had offered AV without referendum to the LibDems and I told Clegg that there had to be a referendum as part of our own offer.

Vince Cable: Our head was pulling one way [towards the Conservatives] and our heart the other [towards Labour].

Lord Adonis: Britain does hung parliament negotiations in the worst possible way; when everyone is exhausted and in the full media glare.

David Cameron (on Brown resigning as PM): It all happened very quickly at the end. I had to ring Samantha to ask her to get a frock on.

David Cameron: I would rather have had a majority government but fate gave me a different hand. I played it the best way I could.

Ming Campbell: If you have a dog long enough you risk looking like each other. The same might happen with the Coalition partners.

Peter Mandelson: Coalition government might now be the standard feature of British politics and some sort of partnership might be Labour's route back to power.

Conclusion: Nothing much new came out of the programme but it was a good record of an important episode in our national politics. It was slightly imbalanced in that the BBC talked to Liberal Democrats who were worried about the deal (Ashdown and Ming) but to no Tories. The programme did suggest a LibLab pact was always unlikely.


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