Wednesday 4 May 2005

Eight staggering years

I can’t imagine how I’m going to fill the huge gap left in my life by the end of this enthralling General Election campaign. Excitement in my part of Northumberland has been at fever pitch, with no fewer than three party signs to be counted on the ten mile drive to pick up my daily Journal.

They seem not to mention the candidate’s name these days, presumably so they can be tidied away and used again next time, like the bunting for Royal Jubilees.

The campaign really came alive here in Berwick-upon-Tweed when the apparently nice Alan Beith sneakily revealed that his Tory opponent had previously contested the seat for Labour. A claim vehemently denied by the Conservative agent until her candidate sheepishly admitted that it was true.

He pointed out, predictably, that Churchill had also changed sides. He could have thrown in Gladstone, too. Or maybe the ever appealing Shaun Woodward.

But at least we had a brief spark of life in the campaign here that has been denied to the luckless voters in 645 other constituencies.

Last night I sat down with a blank sheet of paper to make a list of Mr Blair’s main achievements in eight years in office, backed by stupendous Parliamentary majorities. After much pen-sucking, I came up with: ‘unlike every previous Labour government, has not plunged national economy into crisis’.

Which, in truth, owes rather more to the Bank of England and the Chancellor than to the PM.

Are there happy, cheering crowds in the streets celebrating the vast improvements to schools ‘n’ hospitals wrought by eight years of Labour rule?

Not round here there ain’t.

There’s been some tinkering with the British Constitution that has excited much the same emotions as watching a Sevres vase being toyed with by a chimpanzee with a low boredom threshold.

And then there’s the great issue of our times, best summed up by the headline: ‘Foxhunting abolished. More foxes killed.’

The President of the USA is out after eight years whether he likes it or not, which if nothing else serves to concentrate the mind. While aggrandising the office of PM to make it more Presidential, it’s a pity Mr Blair didn’t think to add this detail to his job spec.

After eight years to make a go of things, should anyone really be claiming that they could make a real difference if only we gave them one more chance?

Keith Hann is a PR consultant and postal voter.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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