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22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition
 
 

22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition [Kindle Edition]

David Laws
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Review

the story he has to tell is full of rich detail and comes with a vital five months' worth of perspective. --Peter Preston, The Guardian

David Laws has copious notes of interminable meetings to rely on, which means his account has the ring of authenticity. It's a brisk, rewarding read that makes you feel more participant than spectator. It also catches the milling chaos of the time, the imperative that a deal be done in yes! the national interest, because the cabinet secretary and governor of the Bank of England were dancing jigs of anxiety just off stage. --Peter Preston, The Guardian

David Laws has copious notes of interminable meetings to rely on, which means his account has the ring of authenticity. It's a brisk, rewarding read that makes you feel more participant than spectator. It also catches the milling chaos of the time, the imperative that a deal be done in yes! the national interest, because the cabinet secretary and governor of the Bank of England were dancing jigs of anxiety just off stage. --Peter Preston, The Guardian

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22 Days in May is the first detailed Liberal Democrat insider account of the negotiations which led to the formation of the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition government in May 2010, along with an essential desription of the early days of the government.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Many insider accounts have already appeared of the events retold in David Laws's book. It is therefore one of the book's strengths that not only is it written in a lively style which gives some freshness to the now familiar sequence of events but it also adds many new insights.

Although only briefly mentioned by Laws himself, perhaps the most important is how much the Liberal Democrats owe to Chris Huhne who played a key and supportive role in the negotiations, despite having only very narrowly lost an at times tetchy leadership contest with Nick Clegg.

Laws's book brings out Huhne's close involvement in shaping the party's approach to a hung Parliament and how he persuaded many others of the virtues of his party agreeing a coalition rather than 'confidence and supply' arrangement. The environment in which that was done was one of mutual respect and debate - a sharp contrast from the Labour Party where so much of their approach to the hung Parliament was shaped by former and future personal ambitions.

In Laws's account, the final outcome of the coalition talks between the three main parties was pretty much determined by the result the voters decided on (wittingly or not) in the general election. There are no "what if..." moments from the post-result events which can spur alternative histories except for one - perhaps it might have been no AV referendum and confidence and supply rather than coalition. But it would still have been Cameron as Prime Minister, and Laws's book does not suggest any plausible sequence by which that could have turned out differently given the election result.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern guide to political negotiating 20 May 2011
Format:Paperback
David Laws' 22 Days in May is an engrossing read. It's the first true insider story of an era defining event, the creation of a full coalition in the UK, the story of the birth of a government written by someone who witnessed and whelped it. A slight let down is that it's author knows it. No page goes by without David Laws feeling the full weight of history bearing down upon him. "I knew" becomes the book's cliche (surely, "I know now" ?) No sentence is uttered without the significance that he can attach to it in hindsight. Even a pub gets upgraded, bemusingly, to a restaurant (Laws has visions of `Loose Box', in London, inserting a blue plaque where he once sat, perhaps?).

The one area where Laws might, in truth, claim credit for far-sightedness is in the book's treatment of Chris Huhne. Upon publication, reviews cited Law's description of Huhne's commitment to full coalition with the Conservatives as casting fresh, positive light on this defeated leadership candidate. Now, 12 months on, with Huhne fighting (a) to appeal to disaffected LibDems as their post-coalition leader, and (b) to avoid the DVLA, Law's intent in eulogizing Huhne may be seen very differently: as an attempt to tie him firmly to the mast of Nick Clegg and coalition.

I'd recommend the accounts of the negotiations between the parties to anyone, within or outwith the Westminster bubble. Only the true politicos will stick around for the appendices (the various drafts of agreements between the major parties).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When politics coincide, personalities matter! 29 April 2011
Format:Paperback
David Laws's version of events around the coalition is excellent. whilst not the most exciting of records, it gives a useful insight into the formation of the coaltion. Interetsingly it seems difficult to discern whether the deal with Labour fell on grounds of policy or personality splits in the run-up to Labour choosing a new Leader.

Despite the complaints about the coalition's policies from the new Shadow Cabinet, it is actually clear that Labour would have done a deal if the arithmetic had been easier and its policies would not have been that much different from now. Whilst David Laws has little time for some of the Labour team whose lack of discipline seems to be a major factor in creating the coalition, he is not exactly gushing about the involvement of Nick Clegg who does not seem to have a clear strategy for what he would do as Deputy Prime Minister helping to explain his current dilemma as the dog who actually caught the motorbike.

Fascinating read and the advice to read Peter Mandelson's verions of events is helpful: a pity that more politicians do not understand that when policies have converged then personalities and trust do matter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Most instant histories need to be rewritten after the perspective of a few years. This one will endure, because the author was such a key participant. The account is revealing in that it shows that the negotiators perceived to be more on the right of the Liberal Democrat spectrum were not necessarily those who were keenest to do a deal with the Conservatives.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Husband loves it
My husband loves political biographies and really enjoyed this different perspective.
If you love the view from inside the political machine, get it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rozzy
4.0 out of 5 stars 22 days in May
Fascinating insight into a key period when the national media and political commentators were telling us what was going on. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mrs S Fox
3.0 out of 5 stars Buy 5 days in May by Andrew Adonis instead
Because this is pretty long, pretty dull, and relatively self-serving, Maybe it gives a better insight by the end...I might never get to find out....
Published 7 months ago by A. McBurnie
4.0 out of 5 stars A short, personal and interesting account
If you are looking for a full account of the coalition process of May 2010 this book may be a disappointment. Read more
Published 22 months ago by lg2
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly candid story of history in the making
Let me be clear about one thing - David Laws is not a legendary wordsmith. This book does not read like fine literature, it is factual and concise and prone to the occasional lack... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Rich C
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside account - nicely presented, but occasionnally a tad repetitive...
This is an easy to understand and appreciate approach to studying the coalition agreement. The addition of extra material at the back of the book allows for a helpful appendix to... Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by David King
1.0 out of 5 stars One sided Lib Dem Manifesto
I was hoping that this would be an account of the formation of the coalition, however its clear its being used as a marketing tool by the liberal democrats. Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2011 by Stephen Richardson
2.0 out of 5 stars File under one side histories
This is a slim self-serving volume, which is more descriptive than analytical. The judgements made in the book are sometimes wholly laughable - for example Laws writes that Nick... Read more
Published on 5 May 2011 by Eric Stuart Longley
2.0 out of 5 stars Insider's view of the making of the coalition
This is the first insider account of the talks which led to the formation of the Con-Dem government. Laws was one of the LibDem MPs who made the deal. Read more
Published on 18 Feb 2011 by William Podmore
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read but Amazon delivery poor
Really enjoyed the book. As noted elsewhere its strength lies in the account of the coalition negotiations rather than David's regrettably short-lived ministerial career. Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2011 by sukesbad
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