Five Days in May by Matthew Solon

Contact Us

BBC Radio 4, 21 May 2011
One cannot accuse the BBC of lacking topicality. Based on "painstaking research," as the continuity announcer claimed, Solon's play dramatized the fraught five days following the 2010 General Election, where the Conservatives won the most seats yet failed to secure an overall majority. Both the Conservatives and the Labour Party wooed the Liberal Democrats in an attempt to forge a workable coalition.
Constructed as a series of short dialogues, dramatizing the political in-fighting that dominated the agenda, Five Days in May worked hard to preserve a neutral stance. Yet Solon could not help but load the dice in the Conservatives' favour. David Cameron (Samuel West) and George Osborne (Ian Hughes) came across as pragmatic, acknowledging the importance of making concessions to Nick Clegg (Nicholas Boulton). Whether the Conservatives have subsequently honoured such pledges is another matter, but Solon at least suggested that Cameron and Osborne preserved a facade of integrity, even if their motives were principally inspired by the desire to assume power. By contrast Gordon Brown (Gerard Kelly) and Ed Balls (John Sessions) came across as bigoted, desperate to cling on to the threads of government, despite having obtained fewer seats than the Conservatives. They did not really want the LibDems as coalition partners; Balls in particular was ruthlessly intransigent during negotiations, which persuaded Clegg to work with the Tories. By the time Brown realized what Balls had done, it was too late; the outgoing PM's only option was to make a face-saving announcement of his decision to leave, allowing Cameron to take over the top job.
Five Days in May laid bare the gerrymandering, hyprocisy and wilful manipulation lurking at the heart of contemporary British politics. While Brown and Cameron insisted on the pureness of their motives, it was clear that both were crazed with the desire for power. Integrity assumed less importance than expediency. And we wonder why politicians are perpetually accused of sleaze.