Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Yawning at victory

Ten years ago today, I finally went to sleep at about noon.

Ten years and one day ago, after many hours of frantic running around with telling sheets and clipboards and ‘don’t forget to vote for Anne Campbell’ leaflets, I gathered with everyone else round the TV at 10p.m. and saw the exit polls putting us a billion points ahead.

This was a nice contrast with 9 April 1992, when I’d collapsed into a chair with despair at the exit polls. But even so, I (only partly for show) said “well, it’s still just a poll”. Then I got on my bike and went off to the count in the Cambridge Guildhall.

I don’t know why, but it took for ever. Ages to separate the general election ballots from the council ballots, then an interminable wait. Luckily I’d brought in a walkman with a radio, which allowed me, a bit before 1a.m., to yell “Basildon! 13,000!” with a grin a mile wide. There was also, we discovered later, a side room with a TV, where we entertained ourselves while trying not to be too beastly to the devastated, hard-working Tory activists.

After Portillo, the count proper got going and we swaggered/danced/slouched back into the hall and did our stuff. At various points I found myself whistling The Red Flag. The result finally came through at about 5a.m. Somehow, from somewhere, somebody produced champagne in plastic glasses.

By then the knees-up that the local Labour party had organised was long over, as I saw when I biked past the designated pub and went home. I slumped in front of the TV with first a beer, then a coffee, watching – I’m a bit hazy actually, but it may well have been Blair en route to the Palace, then to Downing Street; Major en route to Lord’s to watch the cricket; utterly redundant punditry…

My eyelids became heavy. After just a few hours, I’d grown tired of Labour.

I’m glad the Tories didn’t win a fifth term. I’m glad Hague didn’t bring them back to power in 2001. I’m glad Howard couldn’t make them rise from the dead in 2005. Britain is better for these three elections. Even with all the mistakes and failures, I’m glad. I’m proud.

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