Indeed, Hazell's work veers between two conflicting poles. At one end, he is the openly partisan, enthusiastic backer of Clegg; at the other end he presents his work as the politically neutral, technically accomplished expression of his previous career as a civil servant.
In its partisan role, the Constitution Unit carries on its website the judgment of a Guardian editorial:
Based at University College London, the Constitution Unit has evolved over the past 15 years from an observer of the constitutional process to an engaged player... Without the unit's advance work Nick Clegg might not have ended up as deputy prime minister.
In the heady days before the May 2010 poll when Liberal Democrat hopes were fired by Clegg's success in the televised prime-time debates between the party leaders, Hazell set out in the Guardian the way in which Clegg could maximise his influence after a hung election by pitting the two main parties against each other. The tactic would be to "pursue simultaneous negotiations with both parties, to see which makes the best offer". The following week, he went further in a publication bearing this introduction:
A memo to Nick Clegg: In a hung parliament, the Lib Dems could at last end the two-party system. So, Nick, here's what you should do.
This contest between the Conservatives and Labour for the favour of the Liberal Democrats recommended by Hazell required the sitting prime minister to remain in office following a hung election to allow this horse-trading to take place. If Gordon Brown had resigned immediately after the results were declared, the Liberal Democrat negotiating hand would have been weakened. To add to the pressure on Brown, less than a week before the poll Hazell wrote in the Mail on Sunday that he in any case could not resign right away because "the Queen would not wish to accept his resignation until it was clear who could command confidence in his place".
The fact that Hazell had been in close touch with the Cabinet Secretary and was apparently presenting an authorised line to the media (later indicated in The Politics of Coalition, page 211) made this statement all the more important. Yet it seems to be incorrect and was, in my view, thoroughly irresponsible. Hazell was not subsequently prepared to explain or justify it and Professor Vernon Bogdanor, widely respected as a constitutional expert, disagreed with it. My own researches support Bogdanor's view. The issue is important because it seems to show that Hazell was propounding a view of constitutional proprieties that was heavily influenced by the desire to initiate a post-election auction which would benefit the Liberal Democrats and which would, as the Guardian put it, "end the two-party system".
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