Saturday 25 May 2024

The Saturday List #442 - A non political look at my general election memories

To almost universal surprise, Rishi Sunak called a general election. I have to be honest, I am less excited about this one than any other since I first took an interest. It got me thinking about previous elections and my memories. These are not the political memories, just recollections. I'm not making any points.

1974 - February - Ted Heath loses. For some reason, I was on the tube with my mum. The Evening Standard had the headline "It's Heath by 5%". In my memory, it was the day of the election, but it probably was the day before. My mum was a Socialist, Dad was a Tory. I said "You must be very sad about that". She replied "That's rubbish, don't believe anything you read in the paper. Heath lost. I never really trusted the Evening Standard again.

My Mum's picture of Margaret Thatcher
at Finchley Carnival in 1966

1974 - October -  Heath loses again. By this time I was at Finchley Catholic High School. I was walking from school to the bus stop, when I bumped into a bunch of Conservatives canvassing. I was with a couple of mates. To my eternal horror, Margaret Thatcher MP, who was the local MP recognised me. My mother knew her from The Hendon Oversees Friendship Association. Thatcher apparently was very good at remembering people. She collared me, asked after the family and sent her regards to my mum. My mates spent a week teasing me. Apparently Maggie was 'my bird'.

1979 - May - By this time I was at Orange Hill School. Jim Callaghan gave a campaign speech at the Labour Club in Burnt Oak. I went down with Boz Boorer and Phil Bloomberg from the Polecats, who I was at school with. He gave an amazing speech and I was convinced he'd win. We were recruited to do some canvassing. Phil Bloomberg knocked on one door and the bloke said "No Thanks, I'm National Front". Phil being of Jewish descent smacked him on the nose. Fair play!

1983 - May - I think that this was the first election I was actually old enough to vote in. Labour leader was Michael Foot. A bunch of MP's had quit and formed the SDP. There was much excitement that the SDP would take over from Labour and become the natural centre left party. A bloke up the road knocked on the door and told me that the SDP were five percent ahead of the Tories in Hendon North and if I wanted to stop Tory MP John Gorst winning, I had to vote SDP. I believe him. The SDP finished third. My biggest memory though was when my Dad received a letter from the local Tory Party thanking him for the £50 he'd donated to party funds (a huge amount in 1983). My mum opened the letter. As she was Labour, she went mad. She adjusted his diet accordingly until she'd saved £50. No roast beef or nice dinners, just fish fingers and processed peas. I think he got the message.

1987 - June - I have little recollection of this election. My Dad had passed away in January and I was doing a job I hated for a boss loathed. She was a rampant Tory. She asked me who I was supporting. I told her I was a Labour supporter. After that she made my life hell. I think that was when I really took a dislike to Tories. When my Dad died, she neglected to tell me that I was entitled to two weeks compassionate leave. I told her I'd come in when I was ready. When I returned, a workmate made a sarcastic comment about skiving. When I told him why I'd been off, he was mortified. Apparently normally the team would send flowers and a card to the family. I got nothing. I then found out that I was entitled to the time off. She said "That's only if you are organising the funeral, you have older siblings". A colleague who went with me to the meeting, put her right. 

1992 - April - Everyone expected John Major to lose. I bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate. I sat up and watched the results came in. Major won. The champagne stayed in the fridge. I've never counted my chickens again. It was a funny time for me. I'd split up with my then girfriend, now wife and I was living on my own, probably going to the pub far too much and watching too much football. The band was dormant, and I was managing a band called The Sway. I was quite disappointed by their lack of interest in Politics. None of them would have had a "Phil Bloomberg moment". They thought my interest in the election was very weird.

1997 - May - Blair wins! - My abiding memory was of the booze up at work the next day. My boss Ken was a big Tory supporter, but a lovely bloke. The rest of us were Labour supporters. We all went to the Marine Broker bar on Leman St at lunchtime and got hammered. My good mate Steve, got absolutely paralytic. This did not go down well, as his wife was the election agent for the victorious Labour MP in Harrow. She was holding a dinner party to celebrate with the new MP and other supporters. Steve was in the loo throwing up and on planet Zob. His mobile phone was ringing, so I answered. It was is unimpressed wife. I had to pass the phone under the door of the cubicle to him. We all earwigged. The conversation was "Yes Dear, Yes Dear, Blughhhhhh" as he threw up again. He told me that it took six months to be forgiven.

2001 - June - Blair wins! - I have little recollection of this. It was over before it started. It was before the Iraq war, when we all still trusted Tony Blair. I was a Labour member and did some leafletting and door knocking. I actually knew all of the main candidates very well. I'd helped Dismore's campaign, I didn't like Andrew Dismore at all, but thought he was a good MP. The Tory Richard Evans was the husband of a member of the Mill Hill Music Festival committee. I actually really liked Richard as a person. The Lib Dem was Wayne Casey, who was also a friend and a great councillor. I was in the odd position of advocating for the one I liked least. Dismore won by 7,000 votes. Labour seemed unassailable. The Tory party seemed on its knees. 

2005 - May - Blair wins! - The gloss had gone from Blair. I was still a Labour member. I had lost all faith and trust in Blair over the Iraq war. I felt like a fraud campaigning for Dismore and Blair. The only reason I did it was because I was convinced they were better than what the Tories had to offer. I can recall knocking on one door and a Tory started ranting about Blair and the lies. I asked him if he honestly thought Britain wouldn't have supported the Americans if the Tories were in charge. He stopped and said "Well I suppose not, but you can't have people lying to Parliament". I then said "So you think that Blair is the only PM ever to tell a porkie?". He burst out laughing. I still see him around and when Boris was in his final days, we were having a pint at the Hammers and he said "Do you remember that conversation when you asked if I thought Blair was the only PM who ever lied". We both chuckled. Once again it was Dismore vs Evans in Hendon. The lead was down to less than 2000.

2010 - May - I could write a book about this one. I was no longer a Labour member, in fact I was a Lib Dem candidate for the council elections which were the same day. My abiding memory was of the count. The Lib Dems thought we'd won in Mill Hill. Andrew Dismore thought he'd beaten Tory Matthew Offord. He lost by 103 votes. I was really angry with Dismore. In Mill Hill, there'd been an agreement that Labour would quietly advise supporters to support the Lib Dems in the council elections and the Lib Dems would advice tactical voting for Dismore to keep the Tories out. A week before the election, Dismore put a leaflet out saying "A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories". I got over 2,000 votes. Dozens of people told me that they were not voting Labour as they felt Dismore had been two faced. I am convinced that at least 500 people in Mill Hill didn't vote for Dismore because of that. When the Lib Dems formed the coalition, I felt betrayed by everyone and quit the Lib Dems. 

2015 - May - Cameron wins! - For the first time ever, I was not a member of any political party. I felt let down by The Lib Dems. I rang up Labour and offered to help. I was given 2,000 leaflets to deliver. In 2011, Andrew Dismore had got me banned from the Labour Party for standing for the Lib Dems in 2010. As I wasn't a Labour member, I was outraged. None the less, I didn't want the Tories to win, so I delivered the leaflets. I then got a phone call from Dismore saying I could rejoin Labour if I made a video criticising the Lib Dems. I said that I'd happily make a video supporting him, but under no circumstances would I criticise anyone who had helped my campaign or put their trust in me. Dismore said that in that case I wasn't welcome. A week later, I was sent 2,000 more leaflets to deliver. I resisted the urge to bin them.

2017 - June - When the UK voted for Brexit, I rejoined the Lib Dems. They were the only party actively campaigning to rejoin. I got a call from Labour asking if I could deliver leaflets. I told them I was now a Lib Dem, so couldn't. When the election was called, I assumed Theresa May would walk it. To almost universal surprise, she lost her majority and formed an alliance with the Ulster Unionists. I bumped into Matthew Offord canvassing in Mill Hill Broadway. I asked him when he was going to deliver the cheese shop in Mill Hill Broadway that he'd promised in 2010. He got very cross and started shouting that I'd made the whole thing up and that I was a compulsive liar. The other Tories who were with him were quite shocked and ushered him away. One said "He's been under a lot of strain recently". I suspected that a pub lunch may have been one of the reasons. For some reason, being reminded of his "cheese shop pledge" is something that really got under his skin. I suspect quite a few Barnet Eye readers followed my advice to ask him about it.

2019 - December - What a miserable business this was for me. My main memory of this is nothing to do with the election. The day after, the False Dots had a gig at The Midland Hotel in Hendon. It was a miserable affair. Most of the people I knew were so demoralised by the Boris victory they couldn't be bothered to come. Those that did were in a very morose state of mind. It was clear that Boris Johnson would bulldose Brexit through. We also did the Barnet Eye Community Awards. In previous years it was good fun, but it was a really sombre night. At the time, I had no idea that within three months, the world would be engulfed by the covid crisis. I had no idea that it would be the final gig with Allen Ashley for The False Dots. We've not done the Barnet Eye Community Awards since.

I wonder what will be the abiding memory for me of this campaign. I hope that it is one where I associate the election with England winning the Euro's! I would be tempted to say that I've never been so disillusioned with politics, but that probably isn't true. I think I just have lost the ability to get cross about useless politicians. 


If you enjoy reading this blog, please give my band, The False Dots a like on Spotify as a thank you!


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