Beyond splitting the centre-left vote at the last General Election and handing Boris a thumping 80-seat majority, I’ve never had much cause to be grateful for the existence of the Liberal Democrats.
Yesterday, however, a miracle happened. They rode to my rescue in a way that left me – and many others in my social media circle – beaming. Yes, the Lib Dems came to my rescue.
It all started a few weeks ago, in the middle of Westminster’s annual summer party season.
I spent day after day surrounded by boozy MPs, and far from receiving any good gossip I could convey to readers, each conversation was the same: “Please, God, bring on recess.”
Recess is, despite what MPs may try spinning, essentially an extended summer break from politics.
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It’s lovely for them and the Government. Provided there are no crises either domestic or international, we get a pause on political news. No real announcements, no backstabbing, infighting, civil wars, leadership briefing; a blissful period of quiet for the Government and its ministers to go on holiday and get their heads down.
For journalists, it is a living hell.
Instead we’re forced into what’s known as “silly season” a tedious two-month period where we lower our expectations about what constitutes “news” – often to the bafflement of our editors.
In 2021, Westminster journalists decided to go mad over the impending putting down of an Alpaca with TB. There were those arguing that the Government were monsters for proceeding with the execution, other less sympathetic hacks offered to do it themselves it put a stop to the story’s domination of front pages.
Thankfully, however, we haven’t had many of these in recent years.
I started out my career in this field a week after Boris Johnson became Tory Party leader; this was followed by summers of party-infighting, Brexit wars, a prorogation of parliament, high court rulings, messy party conferences, and then in 2022 a summer of Tory leadership contest between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
Journalists have become like drug addicts who, despite the harm to everyone else around them, have become hooked on the good stuff and are now dealing with the comedown. Shaking, pale, sweaty, desperate for one more hit – maybe even another Tory leadership binge for old times’ sake. “Seriously, this is the last time, I promise, then I’ll give up.”
Come recess we can always rely on the Lib Dems, however, who almost without fail call for Parliament to be recalled so MPs can debate some crisis or other – no matter how trivial.
It was this that led me yesterday, after hours of no news to cover whatsoever, to desperately tweet the Liberal Democrats begging them to call for the House of Commons to be recalled, just so we had something to write about.
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Imagine my surprise just half an hour later, when a press release landed in my inbox from the Lib Dems entitled: “Lib Dems demand Parliament recalled over bored journalist crisis.”
Formatted exactly as their other emails, and coming from their official press office address, it read: “The Liberal Democrats have urged Parliament to be recalled amid growing concern that a member of the Daily Express Lobby team has become ‘bored.’
“MPs should return to Westminster immediately to pass a new law to ensure the Senior Political Correspondent at the Daily Express, Christian Calgie, is no longer ‘bored’.”
A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said: “This crisis has to end now. Christian Calgie is a well-respected member of the Lobby and everything must be done to help him through this sunny August week.
“MPs need to scrap everything and get on the first train back to Westminster.”
I confess it made my day, and clearly went down very well among politicos on Twitter too.
I can offer some additional political advice to the party, however: if they really want to dominate the political limelight, they should publish the never-before-seen music video of Nick Clegg lip-syncing to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You”, a campaign film that was dropped out of embarrassment in 2015 and has never seen the light of day.
That may even persuade me to back them at the next election.
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