>Labour and the night before by Bobby Dean

>Friday night I travel up to Liverpool on the eve of the Liberal Democrat Conference. It will be the first one I have attended but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s the first one there’s ever been. As much as I’d like to claim it is my own presence that has triggered such lofty awareness (and security), it probably has more to do with the party now being in government.

So what to expect? Well if the press is to believed then I’m in for five days of depression mixed with anger, seasoned with disillusionment and a touch of rebellion. If the internal emails are a better guide, then it’s a holiday of jubilation and celebration accompanied by a flurry of coma-inducing excitement.

Call me speculative, but I’m going to place my expectations somewhere in between the two.

The feeling I’ve got from the membership on the ground so far has been pragmatic. I have encountered pockets of the disillusionment described by Fleet Street, but in most cases people are tentatively positive about what lies ahead. Our local party membership is certainly up and last I heard the national party’s net membership is up too, so reports that half the party left for Labour in their bargain poundshop giveaway are greatly exaggerated.

There is a consensus building that being in government is good. We are implementing policies from our manifesto, we have stumbled across one of the most liberal Tory leaders in decades and been presented with a miraculous opportunity to trial run a new way of coalition politics. However, all of this optimism is inextricably attached to a very fundamental disclaimer: that the Tory’s don’t step an inch closer to the right than they already are and more specifically they do not cross that incredibly thin line of dealing with the deficit decisively and dealing with it ruthlessly.

Of course the Labour party are rolling around in fits of laughter and venom at the party’s apparent naïvety. But they have fallen behind. With the tonic so heavily concentrated, they inevitably got drunk and strayed many miles from their desired path. Now, tired and hungover, they haven’t a clue how to get back to where they started or even where that is.

Politics has moved on. Parties are working together, compromising and combining strategies to achieve shared goals and all the while Labour can’t remember the night before or the vomit they’ve left for the Coalition to clean up. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to choose to ignore the Labour jibes and threats and give this new relationship a chance. We may have had things in common in the past, but they’ve changed, not us.


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