May 1st 20 years ago saw the historic landslide of New Labour after 18 years in the wilderness. It was a few weeks prior to my A level exams and as a politics student I was excited. I had been 18 since the previous October and now I could finally vote in an election. The constituency I lived in was North East Derbyshire. This had been a safe labour seat since 1935, when it previous and rather unexpectedly fell to the Conservatives the election before. Veteran left winger Harry Barnes had been the MP since 1987 and would win the seat one more time 2001.
My polling station was the civic centre and I made my way there after school with Zoe, one of my friends and fellow politics students. I stayed up for most of the night, the coverage was electric. Who would lose their seat next? Would there even be an opposition. I remember Anthony King saying landslide was not a strong enough word to describe what was happening. Mellor was out, Portillo and then Rifkind. Cabinet ministers, junior minister even those in some of the safest seats in the country were falling victim to the “not strong enough a word landslide”. The map below makes it look close but it wasn’t. It was nowhere near.
The Conservative party, dogged by scandal and fatigue, lost 178 seats. It was an electoral blood bath. Tony Blair gained a majority of 179 seats. The Conservatives had been completely wiped out in Scotland and Wales. It was the electoral equivalent of a Holywood blockbuster. Now I won’t say how I voted. To be honest that doesn’t really matter but the important thing was that I did vote and it was amazing.