The Car Crash and “Scenario 4″
A while ago, I promised some more nuggets from the revised paperback edition of Andrew Rawnsley’s The End of the Party, to which the author with his trademark modesty has failed to draw the world’s attention.
He reports that, during the election campaign, Tony Blair misheard someone who told him about a car that crashed into a bus shelter outside a Labour poster launch (right):
He thought the other person was talking about the campaign overall. ‘A car crash? I’m afraid it is.’
He also confirms that this was broadly the view of those actually running the Labour campaign. He quotes Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, the ally of Peter Mandelson, as saying that Greg Cook, Labour’s in-house polling expert, was forecasting a Conservative majority of 20 to 30:
Peter, Douglas [Alexander], everyone thought there’d be a Tory government.
And he has a wonderful story about how the civil servants prepared for a hung parliament before the election. Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary,
had conducted secret rehearsals to test how various permutations of a hung parliament might play out. Officials had staged mock negotiations between the parties with civil servants playing the roles of the leaders. This war-gaming had included one version – ‘Scenario 4′ – almost identical to where they found themselves now … ‘Scenario 4′ had ended badly when the civil servants had war-gamed it.
This explains, Rawnsley says, why Sir Gus “gently encouraged” the Tories and Lib Dems to reach an agreement that would provide a government with a solid parliamentary majority, knowing that the Lab-Lib alternative was less likely to be stable:
The Cabinet Secretary told the Tory and Lib Dem teams that the more comprehensive the deal, and the quicker they arrived at it, the better it would be.
The rest, as they say, is contemporary history.Tagged in: andrew rawnsley, contemporary history
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