Monday, 19 September 2011

Eric, Zsa Zsa, my father's knee and the lessons for Liberal Democracy

In the spring of 1990 I reached my majority and was duly called into father's study for the 'facts of life' discussion that we had, until then, so artfully avoided.

Pa peeked out from behind his copy of Gibbon's Decline and Fall and beckoned me onto his lap.

"There are three things that every man should know as he goes forth into manhood" he began. "Always avoid people called Eric, clean your flannels weekly and never invade Russia in the month of June." My father had rarely shown such intimacy, but more was to follow, for as I climbed from his knee he fixed me with a stare so beguiling that for an instant I was not sure if he was still of this earth. "One final thing Jacob" he roared "remember this! It is perfectly acceptable to invite a Liberal to tea or even on a week-end shoot to Lancashire, but under no circumstances should you ever consider marrying one."

I have lived my life these past twenty two years according to the strictures of my father's advice. It has served me admirably and indeed my wife informed me on our wedding night that the comforting fragrance of Lenor that had come from an early visit to my flannel cupboard had, as I suspected, been the deciding factor in her acceptance of my hand in marriage.

Unfortunately, there was not room enough upon my father's knee for the cabinet, the Prime Minister, or the country at large. My beloved party, to which I have given so much has indeed embarked upon a relationship with that tautology that styles itself as 'Liberal Democracy'. Watching these 'folk' publicly deride my noble party this week reminds one of the sort of man who marries a girl called Zara on a Saturday and is photographed 'canoodling' with a blonde 'actress' the following week-end.

'In brief' as 'Vince' Cable might say, this marriage is doomed. The Lib Dems are the Zsa Zsa Gabor of politics. They pout, they preen, they work the crowd, but in ten years their contribution to our times will be a footnote to a footnote to an asterisk and people will mutter darkly: "Yes, I remember the name..... but what did they actually do?"


  1. You know, from a Lib Dem point of view, we feel the marriage is doomed, too, and should never have happened.

    But I agree that decrying the other party's horrid habits in public is Not Cricket.

    I can't see why politics cannot be conducted in a seemly and gentlemanly fashion. I have always admired the decent and gentlemanly speech that Michael Portillo made on losing his seat in 1997, and deplored the unseemly gloating of the victorious Labour candidate.