The Sketch: The future's bright yellow. Or is that my throbbing thumb?

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The Independent Online

First things first: my thumb has gone septic. The whole left side is hot and swollen and throbbing and resembling more and more a symbol of the Liberal Democrats. It's yellow as well, you see. The poison is backing up in my system and I can only hope sketching will drain some of it off. Please don't let this discourage you from reading on.

First things first: my thumb has gone septic. The whole left side is hot and swollen and throbbing and resembling more and more a symbol of the Liberal Democrats. It's yellow as well, you see. The poison is backing up in my system and I can only hope sketching will drain some of it off. Please don't let this discourage you from reading on.

We had dinner with Bagehot from The Economist; his psephological instincts are more pronounced than in normal people and he has come to wonder whether the Tories will end up after the next election with fewer seats than they have now. It is just possible the comic optimism of the Liberal Democrats will bear fruit (bananas, presumably). If the Tories run a poor campaign, if they do end up in a position where they feel they can't win the election after next - then a generation will drift back to the City leaving Parliament to Tony Blair for 10 more years (yes, with Gordon Brown's flush bust, the Prime Minister might win two more).

What have we learned? That you could probably buy a Liberal Democrat peerage for under half a million. That the Hartlepool candidate has marvellously clean hair. That David Laws should get out more, or at least get about more. And the coalition that constitutes the New Liberal Democrats, if that's what we're calling them, has so far survived the early pressures that success brings to bear (very more difficult to survive success than failure).

David Heath rather brilliantly united both sides of the party with his call for "more custody suites for arrested criminals". That appealed to the tough young Liberals, while more traditional Democrats heard it as a demand for "more custardy sweets for arrested criminals". Same words, different message for different people..

The leap of professionalism is much to be regretted. Activists in the bar talk about being "on-message". Approvingly, I mean. A tall woman in a split skirt and knee-high boots strides confidently around the hall. The authorities cancelled the launch of a mildly controversial book about the future of liberalism. They distributed banners with instructions about when to show them (they need lessons, however, in how to hold banners in both hands and still applaud). The security suddenly got tighter (it's a barometer of self-importance). All in all, they are looking more like an electable party (and of course, I don't mean that in a good way) Luckily, as I say, they are a decade behind in their game of catch-up with New Labour. It's only by listening to their ridiculous assertions about Tony Blair that one recognises the scale of the man's achievement.

Nonetheless, the false dawn is gathering luminosity. My thumb throbs and goes a deeper shade of yellow.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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