I am an alien from Mars who has recently come to visit earth for an extended vacation. I have only been here for 160 years but it’s a fascinating place. I’ve really taken to your politics and I’m a virtually permanent presence in the public gallery at Westminster. I also go to all your party conferences – they are so entertaining! Some of you will make fun of my pastimes I am sure, but compared to the British hobbies of stamp-collecting, trainspotting and attending half-empty stadia to watch humans kicking around a bag of air it’s positively thrilling!
I went to Liverpool the other week for the Liberal Democrats conference. It was great. I had a good time in the gay bars and met some of your MPs (not necessarily in the aforementioned bars). It’s a fabulous city; my old friend Billy Gladstone came from there, although what he would have made of the conference is anyone’s guess. Still, Michael Meadowcroft is almost as old and he seemed to be enjoying it.
I read your newspapers and they really aren’t very good. It’s no wonder people don’t get interested in politics. In fact, they’re so bad that even I was taken in by them, and went to Liverpool expecting some pretty major protests at conference like burning effigies of Nick Clegg. Or at least some show of defiance from the party membership who were said to have deep reservations about the coalition. I didn’t see any of that. I had only been in the place five minutes (it took me two and a half hours to get through security, though – maybe next time I’ll leave the plutonium energy drinks at home) when I was whisked into a rally for “fair votes” which was the most fun thing I’ve been to since by Uncle Levnok’s 6000th birthday party. Except Levnok’s budget didn’t extend to a comedian of Tim Farron’s calibre. All the people I spoke to were very supportive of the coalition even if they weren’t comfortable with everything the government was doing. Which, when you think of it, makes a lot of sense. You go into coalition with a party who wants to do things you don’t like and you have to, you know, kind of compromise.
I heard some Liberal Democrat members saying that people just don’t understand the coalition. That is true. I met a man in a pub in Liverpool and asked “what do you think of coalition?” and he said that it was perfectly reasonable for unmarried people to be able to live together if they wanted.
But it’s actually an easy thing to understand. I blame the papers. It seems that journalists must go through some strange education in which they are conditioned to believe that single party rule is the natural form of government. Well, not in Mars it isn’t – we currently have a coalition of seven different parties, one of whom has no members – but I won’t bore you with the details of Martian politics. I may be being presumptive, because I often see things that people with only one brain can not, but doesn’t it make sense for people to work together, to be able to co-operate and collaborate without being accused of “selling out” and to share ideas instead of cynically manipulating the electorate to claim a so-called mandate for unpopular policies?
I think you guys in the Liberal Democrats have done very well so far. My friend Vince Cable is providing some real direction. I have to give it to you, you’re the most humble and modest lot. Any other party who had achieved so much in a short time really would be making a bigger deal about it.
You’re a party that leads. I was so impressed with the debate on marriage equality. You had the courage to stand up and do the right thing, not only in passing the motion but providing some overdue moral leadership. It was excellent. Now, all we have to do is make it law and Britain will finally be making progress with the rest of the galaxy. (In Mars, we passed this kind of thing only 4,000 years ago, but it’s a bit more complicated up there as we Martians have four genders. FOUR! Makes for some interesting nightclubs!)
The best thing about your conference was Clegg’s speech. It wasn’t so much what he said, although it was utterly sensible and I’m pleased to say was also both optimistic and non-defensive. No, it was sitting behind Paddy Ashdown and Shirley Williams and hearing the praise they offered to their leader. Look, if these left-leaning giants of the past can see Nick’s doing the right thing, why can’t everyone else?
I also went to the Labour Party conference. My Labour friends were as optimistic as you Lib Demmers. I thought that this is a bit unusual, especially as I have been going for the last 86 years (I missed 1924 due to a bad case of peritonitis). I suppose this is the first chance they’ve had to choose a new leader since they made the mistake of choosing some guy called Blair, so presumably they wanted to make amends. Everyone was surprisingly upbeat, even when Young Millie Band spoiled his brother’s party so horribly. The Christmas family get-together will be a bit interesting this year!
I was a bit annoyed that there was nothing on the agenda about exploring the possibilities of multi-lateral interplanetary governmental dialogue, but I suppose that’s the way you earthlings work. I was interested in the debates about health and education which were quite good although for some funny reason the Labour Party really thinks it invented both.
I liked Millie Band’s speech. I was very pleased to find out that he isn’t at all like that other son of the Labour Party, Millie Tant. He said some very sensible things for a new leader, like “wisdom is not the preserve of any one political party”. Very interesting tactic, and obviously also very true. It’s as if he’s trying to leave behind the arrogance of so-called “New” Labour. If that’s right then he should be commended. I also admired his honesty on spending cuts as well as warning the unions about irresponsible behaviour! Nice one!
Some of my Labour friends have got very excited this week and carried away with the euphoria of having the first democratically elected leader since...well, they don’t exactly have a democratic system for electing a leader do they? Even the Vatican’s tradition of election by coloured smoke is easier to understand than what passes for democracy in the Labour Party!
On the final day I asked a lot of union types from the CWU what they thought of the coalition government. It was a bad move. One of them called me a pathetic Tory and as the conversation became more heated they all started to turn on me. They noticed I was wearing a blue tie and became very threatening. They gave me chase, but I managed to find a bottle of ketchup from a hot dog stall and squirted it all over myself. Disguised in red, I just about made it out alive.
So I’m now in Birmingham at the Conservative conference. I thought these guys would be a happy bunch. You know, having won most seats in the election, having their leader as Prime Minister, helping take the country forward...it's a good excuse to celebrate, right? How wrong can you be? I printed some “I love the coalition” badges and tried to give them out to delegates. No-one was taking them. “Look”, one guy said, “I love the coalition, it’s just the ****ing Liberals I cant stand”. Nice. Another was very disparaging of the PM, saying that he had “sold out” the principles of Conservatism. (Hey, haven’t we heard that kind of thing before?). I offered a badge to another smart young besuited man – Humphrey, Crispin or something his name was – and he turned on me very quickly. “Whenever I see Nick Clegg, something inside of me snaps” he informed me. The little that passes for a brain, perhaps?
I was quite surprised at how many Tory activists aren’t such huge fans of the coalition. Still, they’ve always been a funny lot to understand – I mean, how can anyone take seriously a party of government that consistently promotes the interests of a small minority of individuals with a vested interest in the status quo?
I’m looking forward to listening to what Cammy Ron has to say though. I’ve never really liked him but in the last few months he’s shown some real courage and leadership. Some people say that Nick Clegg’s done well to keep his party on board, but the truth is that old Cammy has an even tougher job on his hands to keep his party together. If there’s anyone who needs to be convinced about the value of the coalition, it’s the rank and file Conservatives up and down the country who believe in a divine right to govern without the inconvenience of “support” from a non-compliant “partner”. Or at least that’s my take on it.
I’m very excited by the campaign for “fair votes” though. I’m going to be putting all my energies into it and my friends back on Mars will do their best by blocking all the satellite signals when the “No” campaign are broadcasting their lies. Ha! I was encouraged by the attitudes of you Lib Demmers and some of my Labour friends at your conferences, who really want positive change. Not so with the Tories though. But then, leopards don’t change their spots (well, they do, they move from one spot to another). As my old friend Billy pointed out over 120 years ago, “Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.” Not bad for an earthling, was he?
Zut-Zut Manyaro, Mars