>Review: 5 Days that Changed Britain, BBC2


Photo by Ho/Reuters from the Guardian

VN finally managed to catch up with some television over the weekend, and watched BBC2’s ‘5 Days that Changed Britain’. For anyone that missed it, it was Nick Robinson’s behind the scenes look at the formation of Britain’s first ever peacetime Coalition government. As ever with a BBC documentary the programme was well researched, interesting, and featured almost all the big players (Gordon Brown was notably missing in action). It also summed up just what a dramatic shift in British politics the Coalition actually signals. 

What was staggering was the differing approach of the Labour and Conservative parties. Hague and company arrived in the Cabinet Office with a fully formed plan and a desire to negotiate.  Balls, Mandelson, Adonis et al seemed to be unprepared, and simply too angry that the Liberal Democrats were having influence to be able to negotiate properly. It is quite apparent that when the Labour and Lib Dems met the atmosphere, created particularly by Ed Balls, made an agreement almost impossible.  Essentially Labour wanted power, the Conservatives wanted a Government. 

The point on the natural personal affinity between Cameron and Clegg was heavily covered, but it was obviously vital. One of the most revealing moments were shots of the two men chatting at the opening of the Supreme Court. Despite the infamous ‘biggest joke in politics’ gag, Cameron says that that moment proved to him that Clegg was “a reasonable man”, and “a man you could do business with”. The same was clearly not true of Brown and Clegg, with Brown seemingly steamrolling Clegg in the initial phonecall between the two. This was summed up when it was revealed that multiple phonecalls went from Brown to Vince Cable, instead of Clegg.

As well as documenting political history, the programme also signalled the welcome return to the spotlight of David Laws. Laws was a key player in the negotiation team, and it is quite clear that his political nous and intelligence are a key reason the Liberal Democrats got as much as they did from the negotiations. 

All in all an excellent, if slightly over dramatised, piece of television that gave an insight into some of the most important and intriguing political discussions of modern times. 

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