I was too young to vote in 1997. My memories of that election are scant: a few posters advertising Nu Labour on Smithdown Rd, Tony Blair’s smile and the “Things Can Only Get Better” theme tune, but even at the tender age of 13 I could tell that something significant had happened – John Major, that “big bag of fuck all” had been ousted and 18 years of calamitous (for Liverpool at any rate) Tory rule had come to an end. Out in the schoolyard the day after, we pretended we knew what we were talking about and Michael Gandy, the friend voted ‘most likely to enter politics’ went around telling everyone what a momentous day it was.
A lot of things have changed since then, Mike never did enter politics, Tony Blair’s smile has long since faded (like his hair colour) and we’re again at the stage where, if things can’t only get better, then they really can’t get much worse, can they?
Except there’s no doubt in my mind that they can.
Back in 1983, on the eve of what, up ‘til then, had been the lowest point in Labour’s electoral performance, Neil Kinnock addressed a nation about to extend Thatcher’s reign with the words, “I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.” He knew Labour were about to lose and he knew what the era of Thatcherite politics would mean for the people of Britain. He was right on both counts.
Even without the certainty that tomorrow will bring a new Tory Prime Minister, the possibility that David Cameron could get into Downing Street is still very real and then, in my mind at least, things will get a whole lot worse.
My hatred for the Tories is instinctive, after all they’ve done nothing to me. I was 13 when they left power and spent most of the 80s and 90s playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and riding my bike, so Tory economic policy had little effect on me at the time. Now, however, I can see what they’re up to. I can look back at misery and destitution they forced upon millions and I can look at them now and see not much has changed. Despite Cameron’s claim that it’s “the most vulnerable, the most frail and the poorest” that he cares about, there is nothing I can see that suggests that this time, things will be different.
Cameron joined the Conservatives in 1988. He saw what they were doing, to the poor, to the miners, to the rising unemployment and thought that it was right, that it was proper. That he agreed with Thatcher’s policies and thought “these are the people who best represent my interests”. If they do get to power, and even if he has changed, the Tory backbenchers haven’t. With their anti-EU, anti-AGW, anti-gay, pro-big corp agendas, they will keep the Tories as the party for the rich, the privileged, the upper middle-classes, despite Cameron’s rhetoric. He has no power over them, and they hold powers of veto over him. They will make sure he toes the Party line. They’re the ones we have to watch out for.
I have no ties to Labour. Politics wasn’t much discussed in our house when I was growing up; the closest we ever got was my uncle running for the Acne Party in the Chesterfield by-elections of 1984, in which he received a grand total of 15 votes. In the two elections in which I’ve been eligible to vote I’ve used it once for Labour and once for Lib Dem. I’m still unsure about who to vote for tonight; with the country in the state it’s in I don’t think it much matters at the moment. Yet I know who I’m not going to vote for.
I may not care who wins, but I hope to God the Tories lose.