MAY 1, 1997. The sun shone on Tony Blair on that now distant day when he overturned 18 years of Conservative rule, achieving a record-breaking majority of 179.
Twenty years on, the sun rarely shines on Tony Blair. His youthfulness greyed and his reputation has long since been tarnished by Iraq and the slow disappointment of time. Yet how good it was to be alive on that morning. Say what you like about Blair – and I liked him more than many now do – he was an inspiring figure then, and he remains the most successful Labour leader ever.
I don’t wish to make excuses for Blair, but it is interesting to compare his youthful vigour with Jeremy Corbyn’s grizzled, stubborn integrity. And to wonder at this barbed irony: the disciples of Jeremy mostly regard Blair with the sort of hatred earlier generations of lefties – talkin’ ’bout my generation – regarded Margaret Thatcher
The gap between now and then also reminds us that elections come and go; that winners become losers; and that the world won’t end when Theresa May wins. Not everyone thinks Mrs Maybe will win. Jeremy from Islington thinks that theory is got up by the conniving establishment. I wouldn’t be sorry if he turned out to be right; not sorry but surprised, as just about every opinion poll would have to be wrong.
Twenty years is a long time and yet a blink of a bloodshot eye, too. It’s worth remembering that as this election campaign bores on. Theresa May doesn’t deserve to win but almost certainly will. Her campaign is sterile and boring, an endless round of dull speeches held at ‘community’ events from which the community has been excluded; or factory visits from which all the workers have been banished.
Sometimes it looks like you have stumbled into one of those post-apocalyptic films where the streets are empty, apart from Mrs Maybe and her band of blue zombies, all holding the same placards, and all not doubt muttering “strong and stable” as they shuffle along.
And Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t deserve to win and almost certainly won’t. He doesn’t deserve to win because having decent enough opinions – even if they haven’t changed in dusty decades – that appeal to your supporters doesn’t speak to enough people.
Or maybe it does and I have joined that establishment plot, even if one man on a ledge hardly constitutes an establishment.
Whatever the case, I still remember that distant day in May, a day when hope buzzed through the air like a bee on a pollen high.