A first-time voter next-year would have been just five when Labour won its landslide election in 1997. Imagine trying to explain the public excitement as Tony Blair was elected to office after two decades of Tory government.
Reading John O’Farrell’s “Things Can Only Get Better” brings back those expectations which could never – in truth – be met.
O’Farrell was a Labour activist. But even so:
“The vast majority of the crowd were now total converts to his (Blair’s) mission and those that were not still stretched their arms out as if to say, ‘ please touch me leader, and cure me of this Old Labour cynicism.’
“I would have liked to live that event ten times over.”
“With the dawn sun shining on the Houses of Parliament, the new gold paint glistening and reflecting in the Thames, it really did look like a completely different place. It was ours. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a giant rainbow had sprung out of the top of Big Ben and spinkled fairy dust as it formed a giant shimmering arc…..the British people had finally come good.”
“It already felt like a bright optimistic new country.”
The strange thing is – and I was a non-voting 22-year old at the time – there was a genuine sense of excitement in the air. If not quite to the extent that O’Farrell suggests. It is perhaps to Cameron’s advantage that he won’t suffer the same over-expectations.