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The account of the Coalition negotiations by David Laws tells us little we didn't already know. It thus surely heralds his return to office.

By Paul Goodman

LAWS DAVID David Cameron was desparate to avoid governing with the Liberal Democrats.  Nick Clegg was keen to do a deal with Gordon Brown, because their personal relationship is strong.  The Labour leader behaved selflessly throughout the Coalition negotiations, putting constitutional requirements before his Party's interests.

To cause a sensation, David Laws new book, serialised in today's Mail on Sunday, would have had to spring a surprise - and say the above, or something very like it, garnished with details of spectacular rows and personal tensions during the talks between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat teams.

Instead, it tells us nothing significant that we don't already know.  There are a few memorable snippets.  Peter Mandelson, responding to the Liberal Democrats' mansion tax plan, said: "Surely the rich have suffered enough?"  Ed Miliband went out to make the tea during the Labour-Liberal Democrat talks.

Brown's interminable phone lectures wrung a cry of "That man!" from Nick Clegg.  Miliband, Harriet Harman and Ed Balls - in particular - didn't want a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, and effectively sabotaged any prospect of a pact.

That all these awkward details involve Labour is deliberate.  In views and outlook, Laws was the most right-wing Liberal Democrat Cabinet Minister, and one of the main hinges that joined the Coalition together.  He's out to present the enterprise in the most favourable way possible.

He writes: "It was clear that if we went into coalition with Labour, we would not be establishing a new government, we would be chaining ourselves to a decaying corpse" - and does little to dispel indications that Clegg wanted a Coalition with Cameron, and vice-versa, as soon as the election was hung.
The first suggestion has made Olly Grender very nervous.  The second continues to trouble some Conservatives.  What did Clegg tell Cameron about the offer that Labour had made to his Party on the alternative vote?  Was it fully consistent with what Cameron told the 1922 Committee?
Laws' account casts no light on these questions, and little on the Conservative-Liberal Democrat negotiations.  Everyone seems to have got along splendidly.  One must assume from all this that Laws will back on the Coalition front bench as soon as conditions allow.


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