I miss my little politic snarls.
I've been, through necessity, focussing on the day to day health side of things, but my passion is politics and the bit I always loved was the cut and thrust, the chess-game strategy.
I knew Clegg wanted a deal with Cameron. I knew months before the election. I also knew Cameron wanted a deal with Clegg. He knew he'd lost it. The minute opinion polls started showing his lead narrowing to 8 or 9 points, he knew it was unlikely he would win a majority. He needed little Nicky and he courted him like a lover.
Wasn't Nicky eager to be courted? How similar he and Dave were, how noble their aims. He saw them as lone rangers, both creating a Brave New World of Liberal-Conservatism. Both clear thinking pioneers who would show their less visionary parties the New Way. They wanted the same things - Nicky would throw off the shackles of his left wing, sandal-wearing Democrats and Dave would annihilate his crusty, right-wing dinosaurs.
And they pulled it off!! Neither could quite believe his luck when the Democrats agreed to prop up the Tories and the Right Wing Blues were so desperate to return to power, they sold their soul for an AV referendum.
But both shared the same fatal flaw. They believed their own hype.
When Nicky suddenly found himself ahead of Labour in the pre-election opinion polls, he really believed he could take over as the second party. He told us breathlessly how things could change, politics could change. He truly thought his party's time had come. Sadly, I think he believed there could be a better way. He was reckless. He glossed over what was vital and concentrated on what was possible. He became purist, declaring his was no party for "disillusioned Labour voters." He forgot that politics is not purist. He forgot that his party was formed by disillusioned Labour voters.
And Dave. He really believed that Labour had failed at everything. He believed Blair had been successful only because he said one thing, then did another. He thought his party were fully signed up to his centrist, hug-a-hoodie agenda and that any dissenters would die off gracefully.
But he didn't do the legwork. He didn't drag his party, kicking and screaming to the centre as Blair had. He fundamentally misunderstood Blair's success, then thought he could replicate it. The biggest mistake of all was forgetting that he didn't win. When Blair swept to power with a vast 179 seat majority, he had captured the zeitgeist. He could support any policy because the people trusted him. If he said one thing, then did another, it took a very long time indeed for people to wonder if it was a good thing after all, if actually, they were being shafted.
Why didn't Dave win? Why, with the most unpopular opponent for decades, the worst financial situation for a century and a tired, 13 year old governing party, couldn't he romp home?
It was that niggling fear, that whisper in every heart, that unresolved flaw. Nasty Party.
By 1997, the public realised the Tories had failed.
By 2010, the public realised that Labour were tired. The two are very different.
There were undoubtedly things the public had despised about Labour and there were things they believed Labour got wrong. Iraq, Immigration, 10p tax, supporting the feckless, spending too much. But they knew hospitals had improved and unemployment had stayed low. They knew there were more nurses and police officers and teachers. They knew about the minimum wage and Sure Start and free nursery education. They just hadn't seen much of that action for a while. They didn't believe Gordon had the vision to get the action back.
We've all watched the slow destruction of the LibDems. We've watched in astonishment as Vince called for instant cuts, Hughes voted for welfare reform and nearly ALL voted for raising tuition fees. We've watched their share of the vote fall from the twenties to the teens, to 11 then 10 then below 10. They've held centre stage so well, we all forgot the side show.
Cameron has been in water as hot as Cleggs, but Conservative MPs know how to play the game. They know when to roar and when to stay silent. They know about numbers games and they know about coups. Oh, if any party knows about coups it's the Tories. No other party wields the knife so brutally.
They swallowed the bitter pill of offering electoral reform. They gritted their teeth when Cameron tried to neuter the powerful, backbench 1922 committee. They ignored the ring fencing of International Aid and they even held their nerve as the Tory Holy Grail of Defence was slashed.
But there was a charismatic rebel in David Davies. An astute, experienced old-timer who knew what his party wanted in a way Cameron never would. He rumbled a bit, but he played his cards close to his chest. He whispered and soothed and undermined. He set out a defensive game, but all the while his rooks and his bishops and his knights were creeping close to checkmate. He knew he would have to wait for the killer move and wait he did.
Tuition Fees was a gift to David D (not Dave, far too woolly for real Conservatives.) I'm sure he lobbied and agitated, counting every Lib Dem rebel and providing a Tory to match them. If he had thought the Libs would vote against, he would have made sure enough Tories did too and the government would have fallen. Checkmate to the right wingers and bye bye Dave and Nicky. They didn't and the bill passed, but David (or perhaps some other Tory rebel) had a quiet (and no doubt utterly gentlemanly) word in Dave's ear. "If the Libs do that again, we'll vote against you and it will all be over." No more anti-Tory policy, no more liberal claptrap, we have you by the balls Dave and now you do what we want.
Quietly and with the patience of the chess-master, David has manoeuvred himself into the role of puppet master.
I'll hazard a little guess now. I like a prediction. When the coalition formed, the elephant in the room was Europe. The Libs are pro, even the orange bookers like Clegg and Alexander. The Tories are against and will never be anything else. Just wait for the next controversial ceding of powers to Europe or excessive budgetary demand. Dave will have to design a policy that suits his Liberal fig-leaves, but David will know his moment has come.