Dear Liberal Democrats…

Lib dem logoThe Labour movement column

By Anthony Painter

Dear Liberal Democrats,

It’s been a few months now so it felt like the right time to get in touch. I’ll be honest: it’s been hard. Seeing you dally with the Conservatives day in, day out has been trying. Over time it’s become easier. I just want you to know that we accept you’ve moved on. You should know that.

Can I just say that we know why things became so difficult? There was the Iraq War, and the illiberal response to terrorism, crime and justice, and we never really cared about your abiding passion – localism. I wish we’d spent less time listening to the wrong people or always seeking the approval of others. So we understand why you felt able to leave.

We understand why you were attracted to the Conservatives. They were only ones who you could really look to build a new type of relationship with. When we were talking things through back in May, we wish you’d been more up front about that. To some it looks like you were playing us off against each other but let’s not dwell too much on that.

I have to say that we were very surprised when you announced the depth of your commitment. Like most people we expected there to at least be a trial period before engagement. I can only guess you know what you are doing (you do know that there are arrangements in between marriage and being alone, don’t you?)

You will be distressed that so many people who been so supportive of you in the past have not stuck with you loyally. These things are never easy but nonetheless the reaction of so many, so quickly has surprised us also. I have to tell you though that people are starting to talk.

You may not realise it but your behaviour looks very strange to those on the outside of your new relationship. You display a disdain for those whom you used to care about – the poorest and most vulnerable in society being a case in point. Then there’s the whole student tuition fees thing. Sure, it is not an easy choice by any stretch of the imagination but it does look as if you made commitments to people without ever really intending to follow through on them. You saw your new partners’ property smashed up. I was appalled at that and there is no excuse. But do you understand why people get frustrated and angry?

Then there is the bizarre behaviour. Quite a few people have said to me that they find your hectoring and defensive tone a bit grating. I tell them how under pressure you are but it’s still something that they’ve commented on.

You were never subservient when we were together but I can’t help feeling that’s exactly what you are in this new relationship. Whenever people draw your attention to this, they say that you just reflexively and aggressively start shrieking about a ‘pupil premium’ and how ‘progressive’ you are. Failing that, you just endlessly talk about unpaid debts that apparently we ran up before you left. I have to say I do find this slightly unfair. We talked about it. You always agreed that we needed to support ourselves when times were tough. But now you pretend you knew nothing about it. I guess that’s a convenient position to take but it’s hardly a reflection of the reality now is it?

What I’d really like you to know is that though we can never be as close again there is a way we can be friends. When you are over the heady early few months of romance, you may realise that you just went too far. Really, I want you to be happy but if you need our friendship once things become harder and colder, do get in touch again.

In the meantime, of course we’ll help you out with that AV thing (though we can’t promise all the family will pitch in.) In case you are interested in what we plan to do, we’ll stay by ourselves for now though we’ll try to be a more outward looking family. If we decide that we need someone in the future, then we’ll see who is compatible – there is certainly an opportunity for someone to move into the space you once filled. It feels much lonelier than when there were two of us – very different though we were – working together to make things right. It feels like we’ve had an arm amputated and, what’s more, someone is beating us across the jaw with it.

That’s fine. All the very best of luck – I hope it works out for you. We’ll be watching with interest.


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