Trains of Thought: A Political Fairytale

'Seriously, guys,' said Nick, coming back from the buffet car carrying three takeaway lattes in one of those elaborate egg-carton cup carriers. 'Guys. Seriously.' 'God Nick, what now?' David was looking tired while Ed slurped his latte gratefully and quickly.

'Seriously, guys,' said Nick, coming back from the buffet car carrying three takeaway lattes in one of those elaborate egg-carton cup carriers. 'Guys. Seriously.'

'God Nick, what now?' David was looking tired while Ed slurped his latte gratefully and quickly.

'Guys,' Nick elaborated. 'We completely forgot something and it'll be a key point. We've got this thing won. All we need to do is tell the Scottish people that if they vote for independence, Haggis won't be a protected species anymore.'

David and Ed looked bemused. Nick continued.

'You see. Guys. It's so simple. The rules of the Haggis Hunting season are governed by British rules which cover the whole of the UK. It's Regulation 101.792 regarding UK-wide Recreational Hunting Laws - I checked it on my BlackBerry while I was waiting for our coffees.'

'Ha,' said Ed, looking up from his latte and from the bacon sandwich he'd produced from his briefcase. 'You have to use your government BlackBerry. If you had real power, Cleggy, you'd have an iPhone.'

'If I had real power, Miliband, I'd have a Galaxy,' Nick replied.

'Galaxy?' asked David, blinking. 'Actually I'd rather like some chocolate. Samantha has removed all the chocolate from the new kitchen. She says it's to accommodate the kids' healthy lifestyle nonsense, but I think it's to slim me down for the campaign trail next year. Can't have me looking portly, what? hey?' He chortled.

'Anyway,' Nick continued. 'About these Haggis. Haggi. You see, Haggis is an endangered species, and the Scots can, according to our laws, hunt them only between the end of November and the last week in January, culminating with the Burns Night Supper - which is simply splendid and very sporting, because the poor chaps have the rest of the year to escape the hunt and get on with their lives and their breeding programme and whatnot.'

'Oh I say Nick,' said David, wiping some coffee froth from his upper lip. 'That's really rather a lot of tosh, you know. You don't actually believe that poppycock about haggis being a little animal, do you? It's offal. Simply offal.'

'It is awful, ' replied Nick, 'to think that these poor wee disenfranchised creatures will be denied the freedom of their homeland because of a vote. That Salmond chap. Awfully inconsiderate about the wee haggis and its family - he just wants independence so he'll be powerful, and then people will be hunting haggis all year long. They'll hunt them to complete extinction. It'll be like the Liberal Party all over again. Consumed by its own kind.'

'Mate, that's where you came from, don't forget,' Ed commented sardonically, looking up from his bacon sandwich. 'If the Liberal party still existed per se, you'd be a Tory.'

David looked alarmed at this. 'I say,' he blustered. 'I say. I'd really have to talk to Govey about that one, what?' Chortling ensued.

'Whatever, guys,' said Nick. 'But look. In the Liberal Democrats, we know all about broken promises. Or being forced into breaking your promises to get to a position where you can make a difference, and about that - well, thanks, Dave.' He paused and looked at the PM, who half-smiled and half-winced, thinking of the university fees he'd have to pay for his children.

'Look. The Scots think that independence will bring all sorts of advantages and all kinds of ... you know, civic pride. National identity. Mass outbreaks of kilt-wearing and highland flings. Every man a Braveheart. Things like that. But what they'll discover when they win...'

David and Ed raised voices and arms in protest. And coffee cups.

'... ok, IF they win, is that their very own national creature, the humble but utterly unique haggis, will be hunted to extinction without the protection of UK law. The poor wee things will be defenceless. No longer will they roam highland hillsides unencumbered, on their three legs, keeping safe from the hunters from February to after Halloween. No longer will they breed. Even the endangered Golden Haggi won't be safe, because who's to say they'll be spared the hunt? Nobody. NOBODY, that's who!' Nick grew as agitated as Alex Salmond in a televised debate.

David looked at Ed. Ed looked at David. It was time for intervention.

'Look, Nick,' said David with a sigh. 'This stuff about the haggis being a wee animal with three legs which lives in the highlands of Scotland and gets hunted until Burns Night. You do know it's the most awful lot of piffle, don't you?'

'Seriously,' added Ed, nodding as he crumpled up his sandwich wrapper. 'It's sheep guts or something. It's about as mythical a creature as a coalition with equal power, yeah?'

Nick went quiet. But... He was Deputy PM. He had power. He made decisions. The Liberal Democrats were going places and it wasn't just by train. Train, though... suddenly his thoughts derailed as he thought back to their journey. He'd got the tickets while the other two stood about looking important. He'd got the coffees. He was sitting with his back to the direction of travel.

Travelling north, he had realised something vital. His power was about as endangered as the rarest version of a creature he'd believed in, but which he'd just discovered had existed only in his mind. His train of thought derailed: his hopes were shattered like the loss of a cherished but mythical creature. Sometimes being Together wasn't Better after all...

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