Being a foot soldier in the Lib Dems right now feels a bit like being your typical adolescent. We’re experiencing a whole new host of sensations as the hormones of government course through our veins for the first time, and while these feelings are not entirely unpleasant, we really don’t know quite where to put ourselves.
So like every self respecting teenager we get grumpy. And we take our mood out first and foremost on our nearest and dearest.
I hadn’t even made it to Birmingham before I sensed the mood. Conference opened with a bid to suspend the official agenda, so we could debate the NHS – a motion which was carried, but with an insufficient majority to actually invoke suspension. This allowed everyone to claim victory and stay moody at the same time. And things had been in full swing for a whole 37 minutes before I saw the first tweet inviting a fellow member to up sticks and leave the party.
So what’s making us all so grouchy?
Well, it’s because we’re the political party where the membership really does set the agenda. Where the same people who trudge up and down wet streets on grey Sunday mornings stuffing leaflets through letterboxes are the ones who get to tell the front bench what the party policy actually will be ( as opposed to should be). And where political expediency has been anathema to the good folk who pay their subs every year in exchange for the right to say ‘this is where I stand’.
And we now find ourselves pursuing an agenda set in four hectic days of negotiation last May by eight men in a Whitehall conference room, half of whom were the enemy. Some here in Birmingham would argue with the term “half”.
So while we glory in the fact that Lib Dems in government are delivering a liberal agenda on so many fronts – and delight every time a Tory MP or the Daily Mail go off on one over Lib Dem influence – when we gather together we are going to yell ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘you don’t understand’ at each other and cast wistful glances back to the good old days when we could all write policy to suit a perfect, yellow tinged world.
We just have to accept that those days are behind us. I guess it’s part of the painful process of growing up.
Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common which has been named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference