Oh Sorry, Haven’t You Heard?

Thinking about the General Election results in the UK — for those who weren’t paying as close attention as I was, it was a massive swing towards the Labour Party, which won in a landslide — leaves me with the memory of the last big swing from the Conservative Party to Labour, which also happened to be the first General Election I ever voted in, back in 1997. (I was… 22 at the time, thinking back? I might be misremembering.)

I remember, weirdly, the feeling of excitement felt on the night of the election itself, more than the actual details of where I voted. (I actually can’t remember anything about that at all.) What I remember, more than anything, was the curious feeling of “There’s something happening, everything has reached some kind of critical mass, something is going to change” that felt entirely inevitable, tempered only slightly with the fear that maybe we were all wrong and nothing would change — something that, had it happened, would have broken our spirits in ways I don’t think any of us could have fully comprehended at the time.

I also remember one of my friends telling me they’d voted Conservative, and the rest of us all just ripping the shit out of him, telling him how wrong he was, how he knew better, how upset we all were. To his credit, I think he’d be mortified himself, in retrospect.

I can remember the sense of excitement when the results came in, and the feeling that everything was different as a result. To some degree, that was true; the Labour win of ’97 meant that the Tories weren’t in power for the first time in my conscious memory — they’d been in power for 18 years by that point — and, given how cruel and callous the Thatcher era especially had been, that alone felt celebrating. Sure, none of us had really fallen for Tony Blair’s smarmy smile and promises, but some change was better than no change, we all thought at the time. It still meant that things were different, and that meant that anything could happen, maybe.

(Cut to us, years later, looking at what the Blair era gave to the world, shaking our heads.)

I wonder what it feels like in the UK today, waking up to a non-Tory government for the first time in 14 years. I wonder if there’s that same sense of a new world, and of possibility, or if everyone is just relieved to see the end of that particular era and too exhausted by it to imagine something better on its way.

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