Channel 4 are on a roll in the lead up to the election with these one-off poltical dramas UKIP: The First 100 Days, I particularly enjoyed. Coalition was focused on Nick Clegg and the events that led to the UK’s first coalition since the war. Now I was particularly emotionally invested in this because as a naive 16 year old Lib Dem I was initially ecstatic and Lib Dems being in government, this show didn’t disappoint. The casting of the leaders was spot on, and the gentleman that played Clegg was made for the role, an honourable mention must of course go to the genius that is Mark Gatiss, the Dr Who and Sherlock writer, who put in a great turn as Lord Mandelson, who’s almost a real life version of Mycroft if you think about it. Now the drama showed how Nick Clegg as the fresh faced idealistic young pretender, got sucked into the Cleggmania stimulated by the debates, and how on election night itself the anachronistic first past the post voting system, kicked him in the teeth as the party got more votes, but less seats, however the hung parliament presenting an opportunity for the Lib Dems still to have a say in government. Now the options facing Clegg were simple form a coalition with the right-wing Tories who had the most seats but were the ideological opposite of the centre-left Liberals (“for god’s sake Gordon stop calling them the Liberals”) or a coalition with natural left-wing allies Labour led by jovial Scotsman Gordon Brown. What followed was quite despicable politicking, by Clegg and the Tories, and complete misjudgement from Labour, Clegg and his cronies were essentially seduced by nice paper and empty promises, but while we now know that Clegg hasn’t got an ideological backbone and is traitorous bastard. What I found most interesting was 1. the reasonings behind his abandonment of everything the party stood for and 2.the agency of Paddy Ashdown who I still held in esteem before watching this.
So first let’s talk about Clegg’s justification for negotiating with the Tories. So Clegg made a statement on the doorstep saying he speak to the relevant parties, but as Ashdown said that was just for the media, he was only gonna have serious talks with Labour right? Wrong? Clegg saw power and was prepared to do anything to take it. They went to the negotiating table with the Tories and they seemed to misjudge the power balance, THEY should have the upper hand as the Tories NEED them to govern and the Tories are coming to the table believing the Lib Dems were just talking to them out of courtesy, however immediately the Lib Dems start making concessions this pledge can go, this pledge can go, mistake, but Clegg wanted power. His justification however was that the finances are bad, ok let’s just reflect for a second, we had an economic crisis in 2008, this was 2010, now unless he wrote the Lib Dem manifesto in 2007 he should’ve known the state of the finances before the fucking election. Alas the “state of the finances” gave Clegg an excuse to abandon every single pledge, promise, idelogy and belief of his party in order to form this ConDem coalition, despite Paddy’s concerns “tuitions fees was a KEY pledge”, “some things are more important, Paddy” like what, Nick, like what ensuring bankers get a nice 7-figure bonus, “those that can’t afford a university education, shouldn’t subsidise those that can”, right so instead of allowing EVERYONE to go to university, NOONE except the rich can go to university, great fucking logic, Nick. Anyways why did the Labour talks breakdown, body language, they didn’t give a shit about the Lib Dems and it showed, also no nice paper, I suppose 13 years of government does that to you whereas the Tories were like desperate puppies eager to please (they used the best paper) not that the Lib Dems took advantage. So in the end after the Lib Dems abandoned their entire manifesto and it boiled down to one thing, voting reform, FPTP had denied the Lib Dems a fair share of the Parliament for decades, but also kept the Tories in government, this should have been the unbreachable void of the negotiations instead the Lib Dems in their attempt to play off Labour and the Tories simply ended up accepting a referendum, for a diluted, terrible form of PR, that no one was ever gonna vote for, meaning that in hindsight no Lib Dem policies have been passed. Labour meanwhile had voting refom in their manifesto.
On to the role of Paddy Ashdown for the most part he was exactly how I’d expected, as a party stalwart, he emphasized ideology at every turn, he tried to guide Nick down the right path but then for some unknown reason on the day of the Lib Dem party meeting to vote for the coalition with mortal enemies the Tories, when he was coming to the meeting to resign, he suddenly made the biggest of U-Turns, he supported Nick. Suddenly he saw this fantasy world that Nick was living in and renounced his ideology also “he’s made us take them seriously”, no Paddy he’s sold the soul of the party for power, if they took us seriously we’d have voting reform or at least one policy. What they did is whisper sweet nothings in Nick’s ear about being Deputy PM and he did whatever it took to spin that to his peers, and you fell for the con Paddy. Anyway’s Paddy’s rubber stamp of Clegg and the coalition, persuaded the members to vote in favour and the coaltion was born. If Paddy had resigned that day, the country may have been better off. The Lib Dems certainly would’ve been it is ironic that the only thing that’ll keep them in Parliament is the voting system, the Tories fought to protect, it’s like Clegg could see the future.
Overall, a wonderful piece of television by C4, but certainly doesn’t hide the fact it’s coalition bashing having said that, Labour are also portrayed in a pretty bad light. One thing’s for sure anyone that watched won’t be voting Lib Dem.