Oddly I do know how someone can become a Lib Dem. It happened to me in 1996. For an entire day I thought I was one. It was quite freeing. You could, I felt, be a Liberal Democrat and just think whatever you liked. You didn’t have to believe anything. Amazing.
Obviously this didn’t happen out of the blue. Someone had sent me to a Lib Dem conference, where I wandered around, lonely as a Lembit.
Up until then I’d never actually met a self-confessed Lib Dem in my life, and I think the fact that these people could just blast out policies with no coherence whatsoever must have been what I found most appealing.
Earlier that year had been the horrible massacre at Dunblane, but there I was, listening to loons saying we should all have greater access to handguns. Wow, I thought, these people are kinda out there. All of these excitable blokes and Shirley Williams induced in me some kind of trance. I went to bed thinking I’d found my people.
When I came to, I realised that my people were not middle-class men in jumpers and I felt bloody awful.
That morning, at a fringe meeting about why there were so few women in the party, only blokes spoke.
A woman put her hand up to say something and the chairman said, “Let’s take a question from the little lady in canary.”
Christ, what had happened to me? Some sort of alien abduction? I left and, like most people, never thought about them again for a decade.
Then suddenly, just before the last election, they started banging on about civil liberties and I found myself sitting next to Vince Cable at a discussion. Cable, who had prophesied the recession, said it could bring about all the preconditions for fascism.
“Blimey,” I thought. “Am I a Lib Dem?” It was happening again. Even unlikely people got taken over. At the same conference, Brian Eno was milling about in the green room. He had become one! When I suggested to the organisers that they get him on stage to do a speech, they had no idea who he was. Politicos have the collective cultural hinterland of a whelk.
“Roxy Music,” I found myself yelling at puzzled Liberal Democrats.
“Never heard of them.”
So when Cleggmania happened, I thought: I won’t get fooled again. I went to another Lib Dem gathering for which my notes for an entire week read, “Went up a tower for dinner with Norman Baker. (Transport?) He had an altercation in a taxi and is a conspiracy theorist. I just want to go home.” No one else appears to have made any impression on me whatsoever.
But that’s how they do it. This blankness is like political Rohypnol. How else can you explain their power? Trust me, you really don’t want to stand too close to them.