I am being quiet now. The door is closed and the traffic a distant murmer. At last the children are asleep in a world strictly of their their own making. I would like to sit on the patio with a extremely good malt whisky but there I would see the lights of my neighbours kitchens and their voices raised across the privet screens: laughter sometimes and cries of minor despair. I retire to my study and shut out the world behind my door.
You will be wondering what this about, this silence of mine, but bear with me. Think about silence. It is not the mere absence of sound although God only knows how valuable that can be. Quietism, a medaeval tradition lingering on in Quakerism, is more than that: it is melancholy, devotional and inspiring. If you stay very still, very quiet, you will enter another space another time.Yes, get on with it, I hear you say. What has this to do with anything?
I don’t have to tell you that the last three months have been unbelievable – to everyone but me. Overnight it seemed I emerged as a person with celebrity status. My high hopes were dashed by a poor election result but I emerged, I survived, to sit at the Cabinet table among friends and enemies. At this moment, this precise moment, I have power and influence – and high hopes. I am realistic enough to know that all my aspirations could be dashed; power and influence could be swept away by an enraged electorate; my good friend Dave might abandon me for reasons of his own; my party members could turn away in disgust and despair. All these things could happen – they might well do so. But somehow, I believe most sincerely, I can survive dark times. We Lib Dems are well versed in them. I truly believe that I shall be at this oval table for many years. And why not a situation where all eyes turn towards me? I believe it could happen. With my closest friends and more realistic colleagues I could preside over everything, everyone.
It would not be right for me to aspire to greatness unless I deserved it. Of course, I do. As I listen to my colleagues I do not find anyone more intellectually gifted than me, more ambitous than myself. But I must be prepared. What better way is there than to strengthen my resolve, ‘summon up the blood’ and identify the pathways to greatness. Shakespeare always has a phrase for it, don’t you think? (But no jokes please about tragical-comedies or comical-tragedies. You lot can never be serious enough.)
You may think that these are the rambling thoughts of a fantasist. You do, don’t you? I can see it in your eyes. Look at this way. infidel, if we jogged back six months and I had described the political scene we have now, would you have believed it possible? Of course not. Dream on, you would have said. Well, I did dream on, and look what happened. I’m dreaming on again, here in my study, gathering my strength, assessing the strategies I might pursue, choosing my friends, identifying my enemies. I have come a long way and I have along way left to travel (I usually think of Robert Frost at this moment. Do you know it? Oh well that is a pleasure yet to come for you.) but I shall get there never fear. Check with me in six months time.