- Tue May 02, 2017 9:23 am
1997 was my first election. I voted for Hilton Dawson, the Labour candidate for Lancaster. Did some work putting up posters and leafletting for him around campus, but to be honest it wasn't really necessary.
What sticks in my mind was how, since about 1994 or so, the Tories had been dead men walking. I was at sixth form when John Smith died, and remember how teachers stopped lessons when the news came through. This was a genuine shock - the man we all assumed was going to be the next PM was dead.
On the Tories soldiered, clinging on to their offices and chauffered cars with grim determination (see my comments on fixed term parliaments elsewhere - 5 full years was seen as a sign of desperation). Blair won the Labour leadership and built up a team that looked young, dynamic and fresh. They were on TV every night putting forward their vision for the country. They had ideas. They said that the British people deserved better, while all the Tories could respond with was muttered sneers about tax rises and "who'll pay for it all?". That's when they weren't getting caught in sex scandals. Oddly though, the Tories all looked like mutants. Mutants or provincial estate agents. Apart from Portillo, but he had the look of a public schoolboy who had some interesting ideas about corporal punishment. I remember him on the news at some Tory party conference bragging about the SAS and thinking kill me now. Labour though? They had glamour. They had style. A few were actually quite fit. They were doing politics in a new way, making it showbizzy, making it relevant. They got that the world was going through the digital revolution, and that people were riding a wave of optimism and opportunity. Anything was possible, and we no longer needed a bunch of discredited, smug mediocrities telling us to shut up and eat shit.
The campaign was a breeze. Lancaster was going to flip (it did), but the 2nd of May was a great day. I'd left Lancaster early in the morning to go to Leeds, and as the train winded its way across the Pennines the weather was glorious and the mood upbeat. I got into Leeds station and a random stranger just came up to me out of nowhere and gave an update on the outcome. I'd already been up till about 2.00 watching the election night armistice and the early results, and had an inkling it was pretty apocalyptic, but the final results were amazing. I remember Bernard Ingham being interviewed and his responses were basically "Oh well, it's been a laugh, all good things come to an end, I'm personally comfortable, fuck you all". That to me summed up the Tories as a whole from about 1994-5 onward.
But yeah, great in that dawn was it to be alive and so on.
"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." - Gore Vidal.
"I proved that you're wrong. And if you're wrong, I'm right." - Aaron Eckhart.