Once in a little while I get a glimpse of the future. Its not something tangible like next month's lottery tickets or when exactly we'll all stop using cars and start riding round in personal hover jets. Its just a feeling of how things might pan out. The moment I'm thinking of in this case is a revelation that came to me in the early hours of Friday 2nd May 1997.
The fact that I can almost picture it is unusual in itself. I have a very poor visual memory. I can remember events that have happened but I can't normally picture them. Occasionally though like some sort of polaroid snapshot a moment in my life is preserved. These events are usually pretty banal and I often wonder what possesses my mind to capture them. This was a significant time though (for the country if not for me). Me and Lizzie (my wife although I guess we weren't quite married then) were walking back up the drive to our house in High Wycombe. Labour had just won the general election and for the first time since I'd been eligible to vote the Tories had been kicked out.
We had just attended a 'burst a blue balloon' night at a friend's house. We'd sat drinking and watching the election results. As a Tory seat was lost somebody at the party got to burst a blue balloon. As I recall Michael Portillo's defeat lead to much arguing as most people wanted to burst that particular balloon. This hadn't been my first 'burst a blue balloon party'. Back in April 1992 a similar event had been held. There was much optimism back in '92 that we'd be finally rid of the Tories. However it hadn't panned out and we'd ended up having to burst several balloons for each Tory seat lost.
In 1997 though things were going well. Well known Tory hate figures were been unseated (I seem to recall David Mellor, if you remember him, went as well as the aforementioned Portillo). The belief that Labour could do it was beginning to rise. As it became obvious that the Tories were out images came up on the telly of people celebrating and national rejoicing.
Going back to my premonition. As we walked up the drive I suddenly realised with complete certainty that it would all end in tears. It was only a generalised feeling. I can't claim to have anticipated Iraq; the continuation of the Tories attempts to privatise the NHS through the back door; the credit crunch; the MPs expenses and all the other things that have gone on.
Now here we are in 2010. Disillusion has well and truly set in. The country seems beaten down by endless war and a seemingly morally bankrupt government. But where do we go? The alternatives are not promising. The left wing splinter groups are too ideological and removed from real life. The fascists and various nationalist/anti European parties are all beyond the pale and in any case so stupid and obsessed with narrow issues that they wouldn't know where to start in government. The Liberal Democrats have some interesting and brave policies (the idea of raising the tax threshold for instance rather than the typical mainstream proposal to cut the rate of income tax) but will they get enough votes under our current system? Of course the only real alternative is the Tory party.
But what alternative do they give us? Look at any decision made by Labour since 1997 that you haven't liked. Perhaps you didn't agree with war in Iraq? Maybe you think the anti-terror laws are draconian? Is it possible that regulation of the City was too lax? What do you think the Tories would have done differently? Nothing positive that's for sure. Perhaps things may have been even a little worse.
The reality of politics is this. Both main parties have sold their souls to their rich donors and the media. Government policy is governed by two things. Firstly the vested interests of the parties' donors. So the city having supported Labour got 'light touch' regulation. The first thing the Tories will do when they get in is to start to dismantle the BBC so that their mate Rupert Murdoch can make more money through Sky and his proposed new pay for news Internet sites. Who would pay for the Times on line when they can get news from the BBC website for free? The tax laws are another obvious example of where loopholes are always retained to keep the rich guys sweet.
The second influence on policy is of course the media. Tony Blair famously got the backing of the aforementioned Murdoch and even courted the Daily Mail. In some ways this was a positive step but then the spin doctors got involved. The government had to react to every little event as it occurred. The Daily Mail knee jerks and the government proposes a new law. Of course three days later everybody has changed their minds and another new law has to be introduced reversing the first one. This effectively means that lobbying for the laws of this land is been lead by a reactionary minority of people who believe that we've never had it worse and who hanker after a nostalgic Britain (possibly in the fifties) that never really existed. The drug laws in this land are a typical example. It would seem logical to be guided by scientific evidence and advice from experts. But no instead we have our laws practically written for us by the right wing tabloid rags.
So am I proposing a solution? Not really. No I'm saying vote Labour! I know, I know they don't inspire confidence in their borrowed Tory clothes. Gordon Brown is a pretty grim bloke. Still Cameron is such a phoney. A man who's only experience of the real world is working for Carlton telly. These guys are still stuck in the eighties and beholden to the forces of the Market. We're still trying to get over the so called credit crunch and frankly the Tories are going to take us straight back into recession and mass unemployment. Apparently its strong medicine but we have to take it for the good of the country. Funnily enough the rich guys won't suffer though. As the old saying goes 'Out of the frying pan and into the fire'. Don't waste your vote making some protest which is going to saddle us with a worse alternative.