Yesterday I had lunch with one of my oldest friends (well maybe he is not my "oldest" friend but one of my most long-standing ones, but as you get older the two, inevitably and depressingly, become the same). As Joe and I sat and talked of times long gone and mutual friends long lost, the topic of conversation soon worked its way around to politics. Joe and I have shared a fascination for politics for well over forty years and on several occasions we have fought side by side on obscure local Labour Party sub-committees. Politics has always been an essential element of our friendship and we have argued and disagreed over the years with an intensity that only good friends can. Our ability to have such constructive disagreements was always based on the fact of shared fundamental beliefs. From the day that we met - at, I recall, a Labour Party Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Show back in the early days on Harold Wilson's government - we have agreed about most fundamentals and disagreed about most of the details.
And yesterday, for the first time, the question was asked : "So who will you vote for in the next election?". It seems such an innocent question, the kind of question friends must ask each other on a regular basis. But it was a bombshell of a question for us : one that had never been asked before in almost fifty years. One which never needed asking before.
At the end of the day, the answer for both of us will almost certainly be Labour. But our support will not come from approval for what they offer, but rather disapproval of the alternatives. The Party has changed (and you can tell how I approach my relationship with the Party in that I give it a capital letter like some people do with God) and I fear it no longer is offering credible solutions. This is not a political blog and therefore I won't go on about individual policies, but the fact that I am no longer comfortable in my party political home has an effect which transcends the political. With both of us, it was not the answer, but the fact that the question was being asked that was so revealing.