I wasn’t going to be a Lib Dem. And at times during the last two weeks, I have wondered whether I still want to a councillor. As thick snow fell across Demsbury, I poured out my frustration to Melissa over a glass in the Market Tavern.
I leant across the table towards her. “I’m furious. I feel unaccountably angry,” I said. “I think I may have made a mistake in standing for council at all.”
The very good thing about Melissa is that she is both calm and calming. She talked about the weather, the lack of gritting of pavements but never quite addressed what was on my mind. After a while, I felt my shoulders relax and I rested back on the settle.
“Right,” she said quietly. “Tell it as it is.”
As I spoke, I was surprised by the level of irritation I heard in my voice. “I no longer think that Libbyshire is civilised, at least in the matter of council politics” I told her.
She looked at me sceptically. “But surely, you knew this already?”
I shook my head. “Not really. I’ve changed. At least, I think I have. I have been to a lot of council meetings, especially planning committees in the past. But I have never seen them through political eyes before. In the last two days I’ve been to a Libbyshire cabinet meeting and to a full council. Before that, I had never really noticed, or at least given thought to, the barbarous behaviour of councillors. Especially the aggressive stance taken by the council leader, John Hyde.”
Melissa looked puzzled. “I’ve always thought that Hyde was a gentle man.”
“He’s more Jekyll than Hyde. It’s like a slaughterhouse in the council chamber. I almost don’t know here to begin.” I paused hoping Melissa would comment, but she just patiently waited for me to continue.
So I went on. “Hyde takes no argument and trashes every constructive comment. It’s worse than Prime Minister’s Questions. Point scoring seems to be all that counts. I don’t know why they even bothered to have a meeting. Hyde commands a big Tory majority and can blitz anything through regardless.”
Melissa shrugged. “Surely that’s the way of politics?”
“But I was impressed by my Lib Dem colleagues,” I blurted out rather defensively. “They are obviously used to the abuse. They just let the flack slip off their shoulders.” I paused for a moment and continued quietly. “But then they didn’t really make any material challenges. The Lib Dems don’t seem to have alternative ideas. I’m pretty disappointed.”
Melissa looked serious. “Well, if that’s the way it is, are you still going to stand?”
“Of course I’m going to stand,” I snapped. “Sorry,” I said rather contritely. “I didn’t mean to bite your head off.”
“I thought you were just getting in practice for being a councillor!” Mel said with a smile. Then she looked more serious and said: “Do you think that Hyde is attacking because he can’t defend? Is he scared that the opposition will find that his entire strategy is just guesswork?”
I shook my head. “I’m not really sure. If I could figure him out I would not be as unsettled as I feel. But I feel betrayed that local councillors are playing petty party politics rather than promoting Libbyshire and protecting its most vulnerable people. If people knew how councillors behave, they would feel betrayed too. Maybe I should get a busload of people from Demsbury and take them to a meeting show them councillors sniggering and jeering like children!”
Melissa sighed. “Another glass?” she asked. I grimaced. “I guess so,” I said with obvious reluctance. “Two more orange juices,” Melissa called out to Kirsty at the bar.
The council meeting had been bad enough but why on earth did I sign up for Dry January?
* Libby Local is based on real events. Details have been changed to protect the innocent and disguise the guilty. Libby’s passion and determination, along with her angst and frustration, are set to be a regular feature of Lib Dem Voice as the May 2013 elections approach. You can catch up with all Libby Local's episodes to date by clicking here.