Bad body language: The secret cost of Labour’s coalition negotiation
The disrespectful body language of Labour's negotiating team was one of the reasons that a Lib-Lab coalition became impossible in 2010, new memoirs have revealed.
Andrew Adonis' election diaries, which are being serialised in the Times, suggest the body language from Ed Balls and Ed Miliband was so bad it helped drive the Liberal Democrats into the arms of the Tories.
He writes: "Another dramatic text arrived from Paddy [Ashdown]: 'This is not going well. The meeting with you guys was a disaster. The Tories will give us MASSIVELY more than you guys and were respectful where your body language was my guys said truly shocking.'"
The disrespectful tone adopted by the Labour team was probably a symptom of a widespread view on the Labour benches that it was not possible for the party to keep the Tories out of power, given they were the largest party in the Commons.
Adonis was one of the few Labour figures who believed a rainbow coalition of Labour, Lib Dems and nationalists was a viable result of the hung parliament.
But when he spoke to Peter Mandelson about the prospect on voting day, the then-business secretary was extremely hostile to the idea.
"The Tories are going to win," he told Adonis.
"That's been the position for months – two years – now, and it's still what's going to happen one way or another. And I tell you, if the country wakes up on Saturday and Labour is still there, there will be a wave of national revulsion."
Mandelson added: "As for your Lib Dems, let me tell you about Paddy [Ashdown]. He was on the same train as Gordon and me, returning from the Newcastle rally last Saturday. So
I went and plonked myself down next to him.
"He couldn't get away from me fast enough. It was as if I was a leper. He suddenly needed to go to the lavatory; to speak on his mobile; to do anything but speak to me or be seen with me. That's what your Lib Dems think about talking to Gordon."
Adonis suggests that the first conversation after the election between Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg had been very respectful, with the Labour prime minister telling the Lib Dem leader he had written two policy papers on how the parties could work together.
But when it came to briefing the press, Adonis said the Lib Dems described the conversation as a disaster, with Brown "hectoring" the Lib Dem leader.
The details of the stillborn coalition negotiations between the two centre-left parties comes as senior figures in both parties start building bridges ahead of what is expected to be another hung parliament in 2015.