On Wednesday, I got back on the last train to Demsbury and was strolling homeward through the icy streets. The town centre is a fairly safe and usually free of drunks and ruffians on a midweek night. I half thought of popping in to the Market Tavern for last orders, but it’s Dry January and I was heartily fed up with drinking glasses of orange.
A few seconds later he was in front of me, swinging his arms wildly, obstructing my way. He glared at me and his drugged eyes flamed with hate. Then he thrust his head forward to within an inch of my face. Was he going to nut me? Spit? Or worse?
I was out late because of a Tweetup in the library of county hall. I’ve long been a critic of the way the council conducts its business and I’d been tweeting about that of late. That caught the attention of John Hyde, the council leader. He’s a keen tweeter and he suggested that we meet over coffee to discuss my concerns. I thought it would just be a couple of us, but he invited a lot of tweeters from around Libbyshire.
In the event there were only four of us and Hyde. He was pleasant enough at first. We talked for nearly two hours. The other woman said almost nothing. The two men said a little, but they would have made more sense being silent. I spoke at length.
After the usual generalities and unfocused comments, Hyde began to condemn parish councils. He claimed they were ineffective and falling apart. Then in the next breath he trumpeted Libbyshire’s progress on localism.
“But,” I said “this progress has been delivered through parish councils you say are falling apart!”
This was not to be his only inconsistency that evening. I asked why local government was so party political.
“It shouldn’t be,” he admitted. “There is no place for party politics in local councils. But that’s the way democracy works.”
And then he attacked the Lib Dems claiming they put out lies. What he sees as lies, I see as differences of opinion.
“The real point,” I told him, “is that you always block open discussion. You attack anyone who raises a point against you.”
“That’s because they have nothing sensible to say. They have no sensible policies,” he said scornfully.
“But how do you know? You never listen!” I cried.
I was rather glad to get away from the meeting and back to Demsbury.
But now what had been a pleasant if frustrating evening had suddenly turned nasty. I stared into the man’s hateful eyes, not knowing whether to scream, run or remain motionless.
Then he was gone. So quickly I couldn’t see where he ran to. I hurried into the Tavern and ordered a brandy. That unusual choice alerted the last straggle of customers to my plight. After telling my tale, Bob the barman walked me home.
As we chatted, I told him that antisocial behaviour is going to be a big campaign point for me. I was going to spend the next few days finding how often Demsbury residents terrifying incidents like this. What it does to their lives. And I want to find out how to end it.
At home, I rang 101 and spent ages giving replies to irrelevant questions to someone who I think had never heard of Demsbury. Nothing will be done following the incident and it will just be another crime statistic.
And I had another brandy. It may be Dry January but sometimes pledges need to be broken!
* 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.