Monday, May 07, 2007

1997 General Election re-run

Although I’d many things I could’ve done on the May Day Bank Holiday, I ended up spending most of the day watching the 1997 General Election re-run on BBC Parliament. Having spent election night 97 at the Royal Festival Hall (including seeing myself on outside pictures when Blair arrived at dawn) it really was nostalgic and compulsive viewing along with being a trip back in time.

The best bit was of course Portillo getting defeated along with the reaction of surprise by Stephen Twigg, no one had really predicted his demise, and bearing in mind he was then the poster boy of the Tory right it was an exhilarating moment. Also the scene from Putney from supporters of Jimmy Goldsmith was pretty hilarious along with the comments made by David Mellor about Jimmy Goldsmith. Later on the part where Barbara Follet's campaign team in Stevenage could not open the champagne bottle provided some lightened up proceedings.

Labour gaining Mitcham and Morden and seeing it broadcast on TV was a great moment especially as I'd helped on the campaign and seeing the enormity of the swing along with Labour gaining Wimbledon was a particularly poignant moment. In the earlier part of the evening it also seemed that the BBC had been taken in by claims of a close result from supporters of Angela Rumbold, the result- a thumping 13,000 majority in Mitcham and Morden.

In terms of the interviews, James Callaghan commenting about No10 and about Blair's victory on the morning after was pretty revealing but also how politics had evolved over his lifetime and making comparisons to 1945.I also enjoyed the interview with Alan Duncan who was bold in predicting that Labour would be out after one term and lambasting the Labour women elected in a rather chauvinistic way. Likewise the speculation on William Hague going for the Tory leadership was interesting despite very few having named him as the next Tory leader.

I also thought that the way John Major left office was very dignified despite his party having constantly stabbed him in the back and plotted behind his back, the disunity of Tories in 97 was one of the main causes of the enormity of the defeat.

Seeing things again ten years on, does provide a good historical perspective on the events of 1997. With Tony Blair about to leave office, it also provided a useful insight into politics from that period and how times have changed. For me, election night 97 was one of the best nights of my life and a once in a generation political sea-change which brought in a Labour Government that went on to achieve a great many things in the decade that followed.


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