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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 May 2013
Andrew Adonis's book about the May 2010 coalition negotiations following the general election is very much one of two halves: a near-contemporary account written in the heat of the moment and then reflections on what happened, written three years on. It's also a book of two halves in that one part reveals little new whilst the other offers much worthwhile insight.

The near-contemporary account adds little to existing books such as those by David Laws (22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition) and Rob Wilson (5 Days to Power). It does try to give an account more favourable to Labour politicians than those others, but the key elements of criticism of Labour are (to the author's credit) still very clearly present in this book, including such basic mistakes as Labour's senior figures being so insular that they didn't even know who former Lib Dem Chief Whip Andrew Stunell was.

The book makes clear how horribly under-prepared for a hung Parliament Labour was, with little thought having gone into how to hold the party together if a deal was to be struck and there was little understanding from senior Labour figures about the sort of compromises a coalition would require. Even where Adonis tries to pin the blame on those in other parties, he doesn't convince - such as when he complains that Paddy Ashdown wouldn't sit down in public on a train and talk to Peter Mandelson about possible deals. In public? No wonder Paddy Ashdown ran for the toilets rather than stay and talk.

Where the book becomes much more interesting is in the second half (though it's much less than half the book), where Andrew Adonis looks back from three years on, reflecting that his account, "reminds me of a general's despatch after one of Britain's all too common defeats in the Napoleonic wars, dictated whilst the smoke was still swirling and the dead and maimed being taken off the field. It is vivid, partisan, and angry."

He goes on to use the advantage of hindsight to adjust his views of events, including concluding that, "In retrospect, I downplayed Labour's fatalism during and after the 2010 election ... a fair proportion of the Labour Cabinet were resigned to losing the election. And when the election wasn't won by the Tories, they were equally resigned to handing power to David Cameron on a plate".

In two key respects, even with hindsight, I think Adonis still misjudges the Liberal Democrats. He fails to grasp just how unpopular the record of much of the New Labour government was with Liberal Democrat of all stripes, especially but not only when it came to civil liberties and the love of micro-management. He still seems to fail to see that many who put themselves on the centre left were heartily fed up with Labour's record in power. Moreover, he is airily dismissive of the idea that the Liberal Democrats might say that the largest party should get the first attempt to form a government in a hung Parliament for any reason other than a covert right-wing plot.

However, despite that Adonis is also pretty self-critical of Labour, emphasising how much more seriously it needs to take preparations for any future hung Parliament. Moreover, his suggestions for what Liberal Democrats should do differently in a future hung Parliament are, for all the acerbic commentary around them, thoughtful and interesting.
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on 21 June 2013
Very easy political book to read. Given it only covers 5 days it is quite short but an interesting first hand account of those days. How much you believe probably depends upon your political standpoint.
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on 7 June 2013
A very readable account of the negotiations. Gives personal immediacy. It also constitutes the opening "love letter" to the Lib Dems for negotiations after the 2015 Election.
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on 14 June 2013
Great insight into double-dealing of Clegg and Laws, two people who are not fit to lead the Liberal Democrats never mind the country. Laws, by his personal behaviour went on to prove this, as did Clegg with his dishonesty. Oh for leaders of stature and rectitude, is this too much to ask.
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on 24 April 2015
Andrew Adonis was a member of the Labour Party team for the coalition negotiations after the 2010 general election.

In this fascinating account of the talks, he points out that Nick Clegg said he would give the first chance to form a government to the party with the most seats and the most votes. (He didn’t say which he would choose if one party had more seats and another had more votes.)

The Tories did win more seats, and votes, but Clegg could still have chosen to ally with Labour. Allying with the Tories was his choice, not his duty.

The LibDems had fought the election on Labour’s policy of paying off the deficit ever so slightly more slowly than the Tories would. 15 million people voted for Labour’s policy, 10 million for the Tory one. But the LibDems, when offered a choice, chose to put the Tories into power.

Adonis examines the LibDems’ record, policies and personnel and concludes that it is all too likely that they would make the same choice again, if we gave them the chance.
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on 27 September 2013
Excellent account of an important moment in our political history. Written with style by someone who was actually involved in the hourly shifting of events.
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on 15 August 2013
An excellent book--to revert to cliche-it reads like a political thriller. Adonis bases his story on contemporaneous notes, and I am not aware of any serious challenge to it from the Liberal Democrats. A fascintiing account of how the Lib Dems, despite having so much in common with New Labour, ended up with the Tories largely due to the influence of Nick Clegg and David Laws, who accepted the need for the Tory 's austerity plan.
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on 1 January 2014
Written from Labour's perspective this is a fascinating account of the days leading to the formation of a coalition government, plus insight after 3 years. Adonis sets out a series of principles for future coalition agreements which are well-argued and logical. All in all a good read.
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on 7 June 2013
An excellent insight into the confusion and political chaos that followed the election in 2010. I came away with a deeper understanding of where Nick Clegg appears to come from as a person and politician and can see why he chose the wrong party to form an alliance with. That is disastrously wrong for the Lib Dems
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on 23 January 2015
Lord Adonis has produced this, in my opinion, pretty average piece of work. Not my favourite Political book and light years behind the magnicent Alan Johnson's two books!
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