This article is from the July issue of Total Politics
In any family there will always be people you can’t stand – boring, long-term partners of cousins or teenage nieces who are just too damn young to be telling everyone in the room what they should be doing with their lives.
Not only do you have to put up with them, you also have to pretend to like them and make smiley faces when photos are taken.
The entire journey home is spent complaining about them and wishing that, just for once, you could get away with slapping someone without upsetting your elders.
When the coalition formed I made a personal truce with many of the Lib Dems I knew. After all, a united front was needed in the face of Labour mocking and it was fun to smile smugly at Socialist associates while pretending to listen to whatever dross the Liberal next to me was spouting.
Together we scoffed when the ‘Con–Dem’ phrase was used and mildly supportive looks were offered when David Laws stepped down, but then, somewhere between that and Vince Cable’s nuclear comments, things shifted slightly.
By the time the AV referendum was happening, parliamentary staffers were more likely to offer up a two-finger salute to each other. Dirty glances and dark mutterings were aimed at little purple badges or the inelegant yellow taxi parked outside our offices.
The party leaders are desperate to make it work, knowing full well that, like Barbie and Ken, their fates are intertwined.
Many researchers had hoped their MPs would be promoted to minister or PPS. Instead, the coalition has created a lot of bitter, disenfranchised backbenchers who are taking their dark moods out on their staff.
Expect an all-out bloody war long before the next election. And that will just be the bag-carriers...