Thursday, 14 May 2015

Linking love and triumphs

Politics can be a consuming, brutal and unforgiving business - especially so for our partners left at home, more so if they do not share or obsession and commitment.

My own partner, Steve, is a case in point. In peacetime he puts up with me being out at least three evenings per week and many Saturdays, too. During elections I am seldom here unless to sleep and shower. Phone calls at 11pm are common as is the inevitable "crisis" whilst on holiday. We look back and laugh, but three consecutive holidays were interrupted by various "trouble at mill" phone calls. 

One of his favourite dinner party stories is the time we were boating up the Thames and had just arrived at Cliveden Reach when the "gay marriage" issue broke. Greg Clark's support for the measure resulted in a few raised eyebrows in the more "disgusted" areas of his constituency. I was briefing the newspapers on the importance of equality and justice, but being on the water and in a natural rural valley, the only way I could get a signal was to stand on top of our narrowboat ducking overhanging branches - to the bemusement of other boaters queueing for Cookham Lock. "Don't let the buggers get him down" said the sympathetic reporter. I didn't know if he was referring to the members or the gays.

With stoic understanding Steve has come to accept that for at least one month a year he lives with a stranger. Even if I am here in body, my mind and my attention is elsewhere. He once said living with me during an election is like being married to a man with 165 demanding mistresses. I do my best to leave work behind, but I know I fail. He says that it was my drive, energy and determination which he fell in love with and he wouldn't want me to change. I am lucky to have a man who loves me so unconditionally as without him I would be lost. 

Each year since we met he has marked the end of the election with the gift of silver cuff links, always left for me to find when I return from the count. I am a tad pernickety with cuff links - I don't really like those swivel bars which are so common now, much preferring solid bars or chains.  He told me that researching and buying them gives him great joy as it means the campaign is drawing to an end and he's about to get his partner back. How lucky am I to be so loved?

Today I was sorting out my little leather box in which I keep my cuff links, collar stiffeners and shirt studs. Each pair of 'election cufflinks' brought back memories; my favourite set being the first he bought - truly lovely square Art Deco silver and mother of pearl ones from the early 1930s.   

So here's a toast to Steve and all the wives, husbands and partners of politicians, apparatchiks and activists who spend too many nights alone than is fair or just. I for one would be lost without my partner's love and support. I suspect I am not alone.

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