The Secret MP #6 Glasgow

by The Secret MP on September 20, 2013

The Secret MPYou can call me Keith.

But that’s not my real name.

And I am a Lib-Dem MP.

I’ve been home from the Lib-Dem Glasgow conference now for 24 hours and I’m starting to feel normal again – but, it may take me a few more days.

I’ve never been to a Tory or Labour conference (though I did once go to a Green Conference which was a bit weird, more like a college seminar than a conference) – but the Lib-Dem Conference is a strange beast. A mixture of sacred pilgrimage and old fashioned beano.

I have to confess that on one level there is a guilty pleasure about being an MP at the Lib-Dem conference – for us MPs, it is the closest we will come to being a member of a Boy Band or a minor celebrity – you ask any of my colleagues, they may not want to admit it, but, at some point, in fact, probably once a day, they will walk purposely through the main conference foyer with their hungover researcher or secretary in tow to add a bit more kudos, lapping up the fact that people will be looking, pointing and saying there goes X, he’s an MP. Even better, though again, none of them will admit it, is when you get someone thrusting a piece of paper at you asking for an autograph. For me, this week’s highlight happened as I surged across the conference lobby with my young researcher Toby(he looks about 12, nice lad, bright too, I think he’s got a first from Oxford or Cambridge or Leicester or somewhere) trailing in my wake and was rushed by a little old lady clutching a teddy-bear with a yellow knitted jumper with the words, ‘I agree with Nick’ emblazoned upon it. ‘Ooh, will you sign this?’ she cooed, handing me a marker pen, ‘oh of course,’ I replied, trying to sound as though the task of signing a knitted yellow teddy-bear was something that I was used to doing, but too modest to enjoy doing. ‘There you are’ I said smiling ironically at the people who were watching. At this point she looked at the teddy -’oh’, she said,’I thought you were Ed Davey.’

This years shindig in Glasgow was even stranger than usual. It was the first Lib-Dem conference I’ve been to where people were actually pleased to admit that the Lib-Dems won’t be forming the next government – which gave the week a strange air of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, indeed there were times when I expected people to stand up during debates and declare to rapturous applause, ‘my name is Jim, PPC for Ashby Under Lyme, and I won’t be forming the next government.’ It seemed to take the pressure off, it seemed as though we now realised that the hole in the boat was too big to plug and that we might as well have a gin and tonic before we go under.

There was also a strange air of moral superiority – everywhere you went you were bombarded with the message, which was, we had made the big decisions and we were right to do so. The economy is growing, the Tories have been fettered and we have done some great things that we wouldn’t have otherwise have done. I have to admit that there were times when I was almost swept along with this – I spoke in a couple of debates and made a speech which included the words, ‘a strong economy in a fairer world.’ By christ I was even collared by one of the bruisers from Clegg’ office who congratulated me on my speech and told me that Nick had been listening.

I have to say, at this point I started to feel uncomfortable. I started to feel the need for some of my anti-establishment colleagues, I needed someone to remind me that much of what we had done was at odds with what we had been elected to do, and was probably going to lead a large number of us into political oblivion. I tried to seek out a couple of my fellow Weebles – but, even they were suddenly extolling the virtues of Clegg – ‘you’ve got to admit,’ suggested one fellow Weeble, someone who a few months ago, was putting himself forward as the person to literally, go and hand Clegg the pearl handled revolver, ‘we do now have something to say at the next election – the economy is getting better and this free school meals thing is a winner.’

I nodded, I had another cup of tea, I took another walk through the lobby with a look of steely eyed destiny etched across my face and I made my way to a fringe meeting, I had agreed to speak at, put on by the Liberal League of Grimmondites, entitled ‘Are Clegg, Cameron and Miliband really the same person?’

‘Right’ I said, turning to Toby, ‘have you got my speech?’ He looked at me blankly, ‘what speech?’ ‘The speech I’m about to give at this meeting, something about cloning isn’t it, or something.’ ‘No,’ he said, and at this point I realised that Toby had spent the last fifty hours on the piss and shagging the girl from the Greenpeace exhibition stand that I caught him hanging around.

‘Well what’s it about?’ I asked, he shrugged, which was a surprise, because normally he seems to know everything.

Seconds later I was ushered into the small hall and being introduced to a collection of people who did all seem to have beards, by another person with a beard, who I recognised from the House of Lords, and finished off his introduction by saying, ‘so, Keith, are Clegg, Cameron and Miliband the same person.’

What came out of my mouth next surprised me. For the next twenty minutes, to, I have to say, rapturous applause, I spoke without hesitation, deviation, repetition or notes about the paucity of great political leaders and great political ideas. Suddenly, here in this small room, away from the press and the whips office and the leaders office and everyone else, amongst this collection of old liberal fossils I felt liberated – ‘We have,’ I said, banging my fist against the lectern, ‘entered a period where the need for proper socio-political and economic change has never been greater. Look at us,’ I said, ‘nearly all of us here, benefitted from university education, the NHS, social housing and welfare support – yet, now, we are told that that is something we can no longer afford. Well, comrades,’ I suggested (to ironic laughter), ‘our generation must mend the wheels of capitalism that have become clogged up by the scummy deposits of greed and failure and mismanagement. And our role, as liberals, as democrats, as Liberal Democrats is not to shore up this failure, but to ensure that when the whole crumbling edifice of international capitalism is rebuilt it is done so with liberal values and ideals running all the way through it. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, it must, mustn’t it be extremely questionable to whether this can be done with us sitting passively on the shoulder of the worst and most incompetent Tory government there has ever been.’

At this point, I was given a standing ovation. My back was patted, smiling beardy faces thrust themselves towards me thanking me for articulating what they felt. I have to say, I left the fringe meeting with a huge sense of my own destiny and purpose. I turned to Toby, ‘well I think that went well,’ I suggested, ‘gosh,’ was all he could say in response.

Then, a few hours later, we were into the main auditorium, Clegg was made his speech, ‘Look at everything we’ve achieved,’ he said and the audience lapped it up. Outside, I was collared, by a journalist from my local BBC, ‘what did you think of the leader’s speech,’ she asked, ‘er,’ I stuttered, ‘I thought it was a very strong speech that has left the party in good heart for the next year.’

I put my head down and made my way to the car to begin the journey home.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Charlie_East_West September 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I have two questions for you…

1. Did you attend the Glee Club?
2. Who was voted Researcher of the Year?

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