Hi there, yet another political blog by the way.
This is the 15th anniversary of the first General Election that I stayed up for, but not the first one I remember, that one was the 1987 election, which because our school was being used as a polling station I had the day off. Ironically the self same school will be my local polling station when I vote next month in the Hollyrood & local council elections. I don’t really remember much of that election except Thacher won her 3rd election on the trot.
Anyway, her successor, John Major waited almost 5 years before calling the next election. When the election was called for April 9th, the Conservitave’s only trump card was the tax cuts which they had announced in the Budget. On the minus side for them, and the plusses for the Labour party was that Britain was going through a recession, the second worst in our history.
Strangely enough I wasn’t too confident of a Labour victory. I thought that surely it would be an end to 13 years of Conservative government. Funnily enough it was a grey day, not unlike it is today.
I should point out that though it was the first election that I stayed up to watch the results, I was still 15 months away from being eligible to vote. The way things usually go is that polling lasts from 7am through to 10pm, with the BBC/ITV (and Sky) announcing the results of their exit polls just after the polls close. Nothing really happens until the first results usually come in, usually from about quarter to 11. It is possible to know which way the wind is going by about half past midnight.
However, on turning over at 10, both ITV & the BBC exit polls showed that Labour, had not done enough to win the Election, but would be the largest party in a hung parliament. The polls had been pointing towards a Labour victory until the start of that week. The results when they came in didn’t look all that great for Labour either, they were holding on to seats (the inner city seats tend to get their ballot boxes to the count quicker, therefore they declare first) but with similar majorities from 1987. Then at about quarter to 12, Basildon declared.
Basildon was a must win seat for Labour, but the Conservatives held the seat. At that point myself, my parents and pretty much every Labour supporter in the country knew that the Tories would get back in. Sure we had the consolation of the Conservative party chairman (and architect of their election win) Chris Patten losing his Bath seat to the Lib Dem Don Foster, but we went to our beds knowing that we would have 5 more years of the Tories in power. By the time i awoke the next morning, Major still required 5 seats for a majority (they won a 21 seat majority)
That election was a turning point, but not as the pundits predicted at the time. We Scots were angry at being tricked into voting SNP, but letting the Conservatives in through the middle to steal 2 seats. At the time the Conservatives were the only party not committed to any sort of devolution, yet they only gathered 25% of the vote in this election. As demands for home rule grew, other people were drawing their own conclusions, namely that socialism is a vote loser, and gee don’t those Lib Dems have some good ideas. So while Labour had fought its last election as the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats were fighting their first election as the Lib Dems, and would be more influential than they would realise.
After watching repeats of the coverage today, I’m amazed at just how much has changed, and at how quickly fortunes can change.