Monday, May 07, 2007

The 1997 General Election

I am ashamed to say that I have had the BBC Parliament replay of the 1997 election result on as background noise for most of the day. Well, 14 hours of it, actually. And in between council work, school marking, playing with Emily and feeding Olivia I have caught up on the results from 10 years ago. This was my first election where not only could I vote (and, yes, I voted for Uxbridge's Tory candidate Sir Michael Shersby) but also the first where I showed an interest in campaigning. I remember sitting at home, as an 18 year old, wondering what ever happened to the goold old days.

I look back now and think how totally unexpected that landslide was. After voting, I spent polling day in Hayes & Harlington where the Tories were defending a 56 vote majority (yes, fifty six). That seat went Labour by 13,000 votes (Leadership challenger John McDonnell won it) whilst my own seat of Uxbridge was only just held by 748 votes. Phew! If only I had known, I might have been a few miles north!

A few things have made me think today. First of all, how little has changed with the BBC coverage (Paxo, Dimbleby exactly the same!) but how dated it all looks. The hairstyles, the clothes and the standard of political debate. The Tories spoke in English, rather than soundbite, which was refreshing.

The second thing was knowing the outcomes - knowing what happened to people. Knowing how few of Labour's warm words were to delivered upon.

I wonder how those people jumping up at down at the Royal Albert Hall to repeated versions of "Things Can Only Get Better" feel now?

Surprisingly I felt the Tories took their pounded with good grace and humour. Watching Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, Education Secretary Gillian Shepherd and Trade Secretary Iain Laing being open and honest with interviwers felt good ... "I'm not in government," said Portillo to Paxo, "so the good thing is I don't have to answer questions like that!" Most Tories thought that our length of time in office was the big factor behind the 14% swing against us. How simple it seemed then, and how different now.

Interesting that Dimbleby picked out Hague for leader on the night - and how little interest was played in Clarke, Lilley and Shepherd (all of whom stood).

But most of all, I got the warm sense of somebody who was right all along. I knew, even at aged 18, that this government would turn into the mess it is today. As all those people cheered out John Major, they really thought Blair would save the nation. When they look at the NHS, schools, crime, immigration, levels of tax or pensions I wonder what they think now?

How wrong they were. But why did the nation have to go through 10 years of Blairism to find out? Easy - because we, as a party, drove them to it. We are to blame and we must never drive people into voting Labour again. Cameron, take note.


Maltheus said...

Blimey Anthony - You really are committed to this politics melark. Under NuLab rapists get lighter sentences than having to watch whole reruns of elections!

Anonymous said...

Antony, are you aware of the rules for candidates at Local elections with regards to what party they stand for. In Breckland I notice that the Conservative candidates stood as 'Local Conservatives' and some stood as 'Local Conservatives - Stop the hospital cuts'. Neither I believe are registered political parties so if I understand the rules correctly, then the candidates are not standing for a proper party so should not have been able to stand under this banner, at the very least - the 4 conservatives elected as 'stop the hospital cuts' should have been counted as a seperate grouping of councillors to the others? I would welcome your views on this.

Anonymous said...

As I believe it you have to register descriptions. If they had not they would not have been able to stand so I think it is legally ok, morally however...