I listened with increasing incredulity to John Reid, former Labour Home Secretary and Cabinet Minister as he calmly rubbished the prospect of a LibLab pact and a rainbow coalition just after Gordon Brown, the Labour Prime Minister had already fallen on two of his swords – his premiership and his leadership of the Labour Party to permit negotiations to go ahead with Nick Clegg and his team to try and stop a Cameron-led Tory Government.
David Dimbleby’s loaded question was did John Reid think there was “a danger of a coalition of the losers …”?
Since Reid is too old a hand at responding to BBC inquisitors - however exalted - to be gulled into an ill-considered expression of views, we must assume that every word was uttered with a purpose.
Reid opened with a token remark that Gordon Brown was “wise and dignified” in saying that he would step down, but this was immediately followed with a “but I’m afraid that I think it is a very bad mistake to contemplate and to propose – and I suppose, to entice – a LibLab coalition.”
Don’t hide your feelings John – say what you mean …
“I think it is bad for the country. I think it will prove pretty disastrous for both parties in it – in fact, I think it’s bad for Gordon as well.”
He went on to say that such a coalition would be inherently unstable, since Labour and the LibDems have no overall majority and would be dependent on the votes of assorted “Scot nationalists” (sic) – and the parties in Northern Ireland.
Reid went on in similar vein, coldly ignoring the fact that his fellow Scots - especially his fellow Labour voters - had just delivered a massive Niet to the Tories and to a Cameron government, having been specifically and repeatedly enjoined to do so in the Labour campaign by virtually every member of the Labour Cabinet. Scotland has just delivered a resounding No to a Tory government, and after Gordon Brown dual sacrifice of his political career, with a finely judged negotiating strategy and the support of fellow Scots, could just achieve that outcome.
But John Reid has his eye fixed on the “national interest”. By this he means of course the UK, not the nation of his birth, and in this definition of the national interest at least, he is squarely in the camp of his fellow Unionist and Scot, Sir Menzies Campbell. But why not? After all, both of them have had glittering careers courtesy of the high road to England and the British Establishment.
With friends like Reid, Labour doesn’t need enemies.