Well done, you! You increased your majority by a good few thousand, and with Martin Salter out of the picture, this makes Reading a fully Tory town. You must be really pleased. It’s a vindication of your sterling work as a local MP. It must be. Cos it’s got nothing to do with the policies under which you campaigned.
It must be amazing to be part of the parliamentary process at a time when it’s going through the most profound shift in half a century, with the chance of even more profound reform coming up. It was truly astonishing to see David Cameron on the steps of No. 10 with Nick Clegg as his deputy, and downright fall-off-the-sofa stunning to see the list of what they’d agreed to as a framework for future co-operation. The Repeal Act alone takes most of the issues I’ve written to you about over the past couple of years and fixes them in one fell swoop.
But there’s more, and as I read through the policy changes and announcements, I feel more hopeful than I have done in a long time. There’s balance here, the feel of a proper partnership. We have a cabinet that contains almost a third of all Lib Dem MPs, and although I’m disappointed not to see Vince Cable as the Chancellor, I can understand the reasoning. He’ll be kicking arse and taking prisoners in the banking sector soon enough. I’m a bit worried at a junior figure like George Osbourne taking on such a massively important job, but it’s not like he won’t be getting the Vincester to check his sums, after all. I know it’s not fair, but I saw this on Twitter and laughed, by the way:
“George: Vince, can you check these figures for me?
Vince: George, that’s a drawing of a pony.”
This is a chance to really set aside party emnities and actually run the country in a co-operative and grown-up fashion, stripping away the old grudges, the petty point-scoring, the playground fights. Weren’t you sickened by the appalling display of sour grapes from some Labour MPs following the announcement of the coalition? (although you’ve got to laugh at the mindset that would settle on the word “harlot” as the most cutting insult they could come up with for Nick Clegg. Kinda sad really.)
Yeah, sure, there’s still some things in the new agreement that make me wince. The cap on non-EU economic migrants is likely to come up and bite the government in the bum when the NHS can’t get hold of the skilled staff they need from overseas anymore. As for the limits on the application of EU Working Time Directive – we already work longer hours in the UK than in any other country in Europe. Control on working hours is necessary legislation, and vital for the work/life balance that’s critical for everyone in these stressful times. But for the most part, I see policies that will help this country to become a fairer place.
So, what do you think of it all? I know it’s not ideal for you, but then let’s face it, I don’t think this is a situation that any of us voted for, or expected. We’re in genuinely new territory now (although our European partners must be viewing the freaked reaction to the changes with some bemusement. After all, on the continent, coalitions are the norm and you don’t se gloomy pronouncements of economic and social meltdown on a daily basis there. But then they don’t have the Daily Mail, I suppose.)
So, Rob. I’m kind of pleased to see you back. It’s good to have a familiar face here in this unfamiliar territory in which we find ourselves. I’m looking forward to writing to you again. I hope you’re looking forward to hearing from me. We’ve been through too much together to let a little thing like the restructuring of British politics stand in the way of an amicable relationship.