..........or.............100 Nights of the Long Knives and Runcible Spoons......?
Hard to believe it is 100 days since that Tuesday evening in May when, for me, we as Lib Dems did the unthinkable. I had spent most of the previous few days intermittently chatting to a pal on FE who had consistently reassured me that there was no way we were going to do a deal with the Tories. And of course when Nick appeared to have achieved a coup in getting Gordon Brown to resign, I naively thought that the deal with Labour was done and dusted.
I was under this misapprehension until early on Tuesday morning. As the Labour dinosaurs (John Reid, Blunkett, Prescott et al) were wheeled out on the Today programme – and then throughout the day, it became clearer that a "rainbow coalition" was a non starter. My head said, well, if we have to have the Tories, at least we may be able to mitigate against their worst excesses......my heart said something quite different.
Early evening I was in Davey's in Canary Wharf with ex Lib Dem MP David Bellotti after a meeting at work. It was then that the news was coming in of Brown leaving Downing Street and Cameron trotting off to the palace. I certainly wasn't prepared for my emotional reaction. As pals from work were piling in and I was introducing them to David, the tears were pricking the back of my eyes. Fellow Lib Dem Lee saw what was happening and gave me a knowing hug. As I travelled back to Luton I confess I was fighting back the tears. Around 1.30 in the morning my pal from FE called to explain their decision to me. I was gutted – I guess I finally got to sleep around 3.30. Work the next day was a haze. Everyone could see what a state I was in. I watched the Clegg and Cameron nuptials in the rose garden as in a dream......was this really happening? Would I wake up and discover it was an all too realistic nightmare?
100 days later the dust has more or less settled, we have a "coalition agreement", we have a "deputy Prime Minister", we have a few Cabinet ministers, we are "Making a Difference". Er.........right. Since I was stuck on a poxy little freezing cold train for nearly 4 hours today without a plug for my failing laptop, or a cup of tea!!!! I had chance to reread both the Coalition Agreement and our manifesto. Frankly, as Ms Warsi let slip, that "Coalition Agreement" is the Tory manifesto augmented with a little "Lib Dem thinking". Not only that, but I have scoured that wretched agreement to see what it says about cutting housing benefit.....??? What is says about Academy schools.....(a little yes, but not what has ended up in the legislation), about the very real cuts to front line services that are already happening. Actually, what is says is "We will make modest cuts of £6billion to non front-line services" (my emphasis)............so why are we looking already at 30% - 50% cuts to services to young people? Vital front line drugs and alcohol services already gone? Youth Services and Connexions as we speak issuing redundancy notices?
Simon Hughes is right to be raising concerns. The Tory numbskulls who are laying into him at the moment should surely cause those of us who actually subscribe to the values enshrined in the preamble to our constitution, namely that "no one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity" to be a little unsettled. We have found ourselves in bed with a bunch of people, most of whom frankly don't give a shit about those who haven't had their advantages. Believe me, I have spent most of my life working with them, I know. So, with apologies to those of my fellow Lib Dems who are making a brave show of trying to defend the indefensible, it's time our party woke up and smelt the coffee. Frankly, if we don't, we may be spared the pain of waking up altogether and find ourselves 6 foot under.