Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!
The title comes from Wordsworth's "French Revolution" but I've used it to sum up how I felt and how I asumed every Labour activist and voter felt on the May morning in 1997 when Tony Blair entered 10 Downing Street as Labour PM after a landslide victory.
I feel sorry for the younger generation of activists (gosh, never thought I'd write that!) who didn't get to experience that moment. Obviously older comrades had a similar experience in 1945 or 1964.
For me it was the culmination of 9 years hard slog as a Labour activist and by the end local organiser, and the symbolic ending of 18 years of torment from the Tories. It was particularly sweet because the defeat in 1992 had been so particularly bitter and for ordinary footsoldiers like me, so unexpected.
Unlike some, I was never disappointed by our beautiful Labour government or the 13 subsequent years it spent turning round the damage of Thatcherism and making Britain a better place to live in. The worst day and the worst decisions of the Blair and Brown years would be better to live through again than the best day of the mob running Britain now. I feel nothing but pride to have had the privilege to be a Labour Party member during the 1997-2010 period. Nothing but pride.
Every time I walk through the ward where I am a councillor, one of the most deprived wards in England, I see what Labour did for the poorest people in society: refurbished social housing, a brand new city academy where a failing school stood, a primary school rebuilt with BSF money, another new secondary school being built under a contract Ed Balls signed off, safer neighbourhood coppers and PCSOs put there by Ken Livingstone. Lives of my constituents which are still tough and sometimes desperate but lived a little safer, a little warmer, a little more prosperous and a little more full of hope and opportunity because of Labour.
But why am I feeling inspired to waffle on nostalgically about 1997 today?
Because of something I read today that made me realise that on that day in 1997 when my heart was bursting with the joy that we finally had a Labour Government there were people pretending to be part of our movement who did not share that joy. Neal Lawson of Compass has a piece on Comment is Free today where he whinges on about the betrayals of both Blair and Brown: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/10/tony-blair-brownites-blairites
It's worth reading all the comments because my good comrade Hopi Sen is on magnificent form dissecting Neal's position. But the one that inspired me to write this evening is the one by an anonymous commenter that quotes Neal's previous statement:
"I was a Blairite. Back in 1994, I believed he was serious about new politics, communities and Europe. More fool me. My first doubts crept in as early as election day in May 1997. I was crunching up long gravel drives in Enfield Southgate, where rumours abounded that no-hoper Stephen Twigg might oust Michael Portillo. After passing BMWs and Mercs I was met by enthusiastic upper-middle-class families who were "all for Tony Blair here". We were going to win, but what did we have to sacrifice to have these people in our tent?"
And correctly responds:
"The truth is you don't want a Labour Government. Not only are you saved from having to coax "these people" (i.e. perfectly ordinary middle class people) into the tent, it's just so much easier to snipe and whine from the sidelines. In fact you're so much happier being in opposition, you just couldn't stop. Even when Labour were in government."
Here I am raging against the dying of the light, and even at its most blinding, you could not see it. You could not see it and you did not believe in and support and strive to protect the best, most noble government this country has had in half a century. We were keeping the faith and trying to change our country and the world, and you were already hating it before the last Labour vote had even been counted. We saw Stephen Twigg beating Portillo and wanted to sing ourselves hoarse, you wanted to cry betrayal. Shame on you.