Afterwards, the encounter gives Morris an extraordinary perspective on history:
"I pondered all these things,” he wrote, “and how men in fight and lose the battle and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat. And when it comes, turns out not to be what they meant and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.”
Morris was right, and he seems to have hit on a profound truth about politics. Change is deeply paradoxical, and – although the grammar of progress eludes most politicians – we achieve what we achieve sideways, like crabs.
When we win we are also at the moment of disappointment; when we lose then paradoxically things happen as a result. It’s confusing, but that is how it works.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't a reason to be cheerful exactly. Nothing so extreme. But it might be a reason to see the current political setback more objectively.
So here are my three reasons to be less cheerless.
1. Things will happen quickly. David Steel said that the Lib Dems would take two decades to recover. I don't think he's right, and for all the reasons Duncan Brack set out. It was less than 18 months between the ignominy of fourth place behind the Greens in the 1989 Euro-elections and the 'dead parrot' verdict on the party, and victory in the Eastbourne by-election in October 1990 ("well, the parrot twitched," said a Tory spokesperson).
Within four years, and two years after the disappointing general election of 1992, you could walk from Land's End to Winchester on land represented at some level or other by Lib Dems - a huge yellow swathe across Wessex, capital city: Yeovil.
2. The Labour Party is crumbling. An amazing map, developed I think by Vaughan Roderick from BBC Wales, compared Labour constituencies in 2015 with former coalfields. Apart from London, the comparison is extraordinary. What I take from this is that Labour has now shrunk back down to its absolute heartlands, apart from its seats in the capital. This is graphic evidence that there is no longer a coherent Labour proposition, no uniting conceot, no obvious purpose.
This does not, of course, guarantee that the Lib Dems will provide a way forward either, but the opportunity is there to be grasped.
3. We are due for a major intellectual shift. I have had a go at this idea before, but these major economic shifts happen regularly every 40 years - 1831, 1868, 1909, 1940, 1979, which means we are due for something similar in around four years time. They are hardly uncontroversial shifts when they happen - the People's Budget split the nation; so did monetary economics and the end of exchange controls. But they are big shifts, and they are permanent for four decades or so.
They can't happen out of the blue. There has to be some work, some proposals, some emerging consensus, some direction before the shift can take place. But it will happen, and probably in this parliament.
So hold onto your hats.
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