Senior Labour figures including John Reid and David Blunkett spoke out against a Lib-Lab coalition during the post-election talks. Now we know that Tony Blair was equally sceptical about the idea, thanks to Mandelson’s memoirs in the Times.

According to Mandy, “Blair was firmly oppposed to even thinking about a deal with the Lib Dems.” It would be a serious error that prompted an outcry, he argued. Labour would be “smashed” at the next election. A few days later Blair repeated that it would be a “constitutional outrage“.

The book also reveals that David Miliband and Alistair Darling were firmly against the talks. The national mood at the time was fairly unsympathetic to the idea of Labour – and not only Brown – remaining in Downing Street.

Mandelson says that when Gordon Brown first started discussing the idea of working with the “Liberals” the peer said to him: “If you’re serious perhaps you should stop calling them the Liberals and get their name right.”

There is also a great line about Clegg finding Brown “bullying” and “uncongenial“: In fact Brown had been in what passed for his “listening mode“, according to the peer. It makes you wonder what he was like on a bad day.

Interestingly, Mandelson also takes his fair share of the blame for the failed election campaign, saying he had “struggled” and “failed to get a grip“. This mea culpa enables him to appear statesmanlike, in contrast to certain other Labour figures.

Although not everyone is impressed by the diaries: James Kirkup, for example.

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