Jo arrived home late as usual and as soon as he caught sight of her in her F and M winter coat Archie could see the unhappy look on her face.
She threw her bag on the sofa and papers spilled out on the Ikea covers. “Oh, Archie”’ she sighed. “I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. Sometimes I get so confused and…and…” her voice trailed away.
“What is it, Jo?” He placed a strong arm around her shoulder and pulled her close.
“The truth is, I don’t think anybody likes me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I like you. And so does…well, everybody,”
“Everybody in the family maybe and I’m not sure about all of them. I mean nobody out there in politics, in the party, in Scotland.” She failed to stifle a sob.
Not this again, he thought. It was a constant theme in her darker moments. It was only natural to wonder how you went down in the country but she had taken to questioning why she bothered, what it was for.
He put on his business-like voice. “Look. You’re doing this because you want to make a difference. You believe in helping the less well-off and changing society so we support everybody not just the elite.”
She turned her tearful eyes up to him. “Exactly. I believe in all the things my opponents are doing. And I can’t say so. Everything I believe, the Nats have stolen. I detest this Coalition which is cutting state spending to the lowest level since 1948. They are privatising everything, even the Royal Mail, something I’ve always believed in, the money is going out by the billion to a handful of massive out-sourcing companies whose obligation is to shareholders, not taxpayers and meantime average incomes decline, their policies will put thousands of more children into poverty and next they’ll do away with the European Convention on Human Rights. And I can’t speak up or I’ll be accused of hypocrisy since we are only slightly objecting as a party and in the absence of a Labour government with balls, the only option is…is…” She couldn’t finish the sentence.
Archie shrugged. “But you didn’t speak up about nuclear weapons either. That seemed to work. Just do the same again. Pretend there is no alternative, focus on the immediate enemy and leave the bigger fight to those whose job it is in London. Keep it to yourself and it will go away.”
She sighed deeply. “But I also long to see proper comprehensive childcare in this country because it could transform lives and the economy. Frankly, I would vote for that.”
Archie put Whitney Houston on the ipad. “So why not back it then. Just be honest and say you support the policy.”
She wailed in frustration. “That’s exactly it. I really really want to. It’s like minimum pricing. We know it makes sense and confronts a social evil but I have to say no or else there’s no point in me being there.”
He turned down the volume and reached for the sauvignon blanc, glugging some into the silver-stemmed glasses they’d chosen together at John Lewis. He plumped up a cushion for her. “Have a drink and imagine this. Instead of just opposing everything, why don’t you…” he looked at her closely anticipating her reaction… “come up with policies of your own.”
For a moment she was stunned. Her eyes widened beneath her fringe and the wine nearly spilt over the glass. “You mean devise alternative policies of my own to counter what the opposition are saying…things that might be attractive to the voters and be just like a real political party with ideas and what’s that other thing they always talk about…Hope.”
She flung her arms around his neck, slopping white wine over the sofa covers. “Oh, Archie. You’re a genius. I never thought of that. Real policies. Brilliant.”
Suddenly he felt her grip loosen. Her brow furrowed. “But who will come up with them? We haven’t anybody who’s ever had an idea since that smug wee so-and-so Wendy huffed off.” He shook his head wearily. “ No, Archie. It will never work. It’s no use, we’ll just have to keep on being the Labour Party and you were right first time. I’ll just shut up and pretend I’m opposed to everything. I don’t need an alternative. I need another drink. Turn up Whitney.”