If you’d have spoken to me on the morning of May 1 1997, I’d have been a nervous wreck. As Britain went to the polls, it felt like it was time for change. After all, Britain had been controlled by the Conservatives (largely Margaret Thatcher) for 18 years, and the country was crying out for a new way of doing things.
Despite a tide of sentiment that was fundamentally in support of change, and even with The Sun coming out in favour of Tony Blair, I think plenty of people spent many hours worrying that the polls had been wrong, and that John Major would be swept back to power on the basis of fear of change. More to the point, Labour had made a habit out of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, so anything was possible.
As it was, Blair won a landslide majority, and Britain found itself with a Labour Prime Minister for the first time since 1979. The feeling on the streets of London (where I lived at the time) the following morning was like nothing I have ever experienced. People smiled, for a start. There was a real sense of public optimism, and a feeling that the UK was entering a whole new era. Put simply, Britain felt like a different kind of place.
Of course, that feeling didn’t stop dodgy dossiers, the Millennium Dome, slow handclapping at the Women’s Institute and cash for hono
urs, but at the time, it was a new dawn for the country.
Fast forward eleven years (and head 3458 miles west), and America is potentially on the verge of the same monumental mandate for change. I’ve got that nervous feeling in my stomach again, despite polls that suggest there’s more chance of me being elected President than that funny little man with the grey hair. I’m reading the news voraciously, and I spend any spare time on this site looking for evidence that the country is turning increasingly blue. It feels like there’s never been a more important American election in my lifetime.
I’m actually out of the country next Tuesday, but when I return on Wednesday, I’m hoping that the immigration officers have smiles on their faces, and that the taxi drivers thronging in the arrivals hall have an extra skip in their step.
May 2 1997 felt like the start of a new chapter. Here’s hoping that November 5 2008 is the beginning of a whole new book.