What Nick told Gordon (according to Peter) when asking him to quit: “Please understand I have no personal animosity whatsoever.”

by Stephen Tall on July 12, 2010

The first of the post-New Labour memoirs, Lord (Peter) Mandelson’s The Third Man, begins its serialisation in The Times today.

Those who pay for the paper, in print or online, will have the joy of relishing its every detail. If like me you’re reliant on the Press Association’s fillet, it seems the big splash is what we knew already: that Nick Clegg told Gordon Brown he would have no option but to resign if there were to be any chance of Labour and the Liberal Democrats cutting a deal.

Unlike every other Labour MP except James Purnell, however, Nick did at least have the courage to deliver an ultimatum to Mr Brown’s face, reportedly telling him:

Please understand I have no personal animosity whatsoever. But it is not possible to secure the legitimacy of a coalition and win a referendum unless you move on in a dignified way.”

Lord Mandelson was, it seems, one of only two other witnesses to the meeting, which in characteristic far-fetchedly true fashion involved the then Prime Minister and Business Secretary using a secret tunnel which connects Number 10 and the Defence ministry. We’re told Mr Brown

avoided giving a straight response to Mr Clegg’s ultimatum during the meeting, at which Danny Alexander – now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury – was also present. It was not until the following day, after conversations with other Lib Dems and his predecessor Mr Blair, that Mr Brown resolved to resign, according to Lord Mandelson.