My life as a political airhead...

...is history. Democracy and all that: suddenly it all seems, well, exciting, says Amy Jenkins

As creator of Me-generation TV series This Life I have made something of a career out of political apathy. My This Life manifesto - the document that set up the world my characters inhabit and got me the commission from the BBC - contained the following sentence: "As for politics, democracy, the vote and all that, the whole way politics works, politicians arguing for things they don't believe in because they are pandering to extremists - Euro-sceptics, Old Left - or to an electorate they assume to be idiotic - crackdown on crime, back to basics - it all just seems to be exactly what it is; a load of hot air."

Oh, yes? The author of that sentence was moved to cheers and tears as "democracy, the vote and all that" felled Portillo and Hamilton, had Ben Bradshaw hailing a victory over bigotry and record numbers of women sweeping to power. Now, I wake each morning to find that I have been sprung from a jail I hadn't really known I was in. Now I realise that I had a kind of unconscious underlying belief that Tory government was in the inevitable order of things. Seeing is believing, they say, and I am one of the many who has never really known anything but Tory government. All those years I couldn't be bothered with the news - I'd put them down to an unfortunate frivolity in my nature, when all along it was despair.

Before and after: a friend said she wouldn't vote. Oh, no, she said, she wasn't really interested in that sort of thing. Now her eyes are shining and she is grinning from ear to ear. Isn't it incredible, she says, and she really must do something about getting on the electoral register. Another friend, wasn't even able to discern where his genuine sympathies lay until, having voted Tory in a hopeless muddle, he found himself leaping and cheering the Labour victory with the rest of us.

Hindsight. How could we have let it come to that? The last government was the tail-end, the absolute dregs, of a corrupt and rotting regime. Their habitual smugness, self-satisfaction, the sneering, schoolmasterly way they spoke to the press. Now I see I was in denial. I simply had not allowed myself to hate them because hating them would have made my life an angry, miserable place for 18 years.

A vague sense of shame, which dogged me when I lived in Paris last year, is suddenly explicable. Now I see - I was ashamed of how we behaved in Europe. Now I look forward to visiting Europe and holding my head up. I no longer come from a complacent nation of xenophobes who unapologetically poison people with their beef. I might even be the object of envy, what with our charismatic new leader.

And the bottom line is, I'm really proud that Britain is capable of electing a government that is at least willing to make a gesture towards the principle of "caring". It would be hard to exaggerate how fundamental a shift this is, this pride. Because in Tory Britain the survival of the fittest mentality, the hard way, the it-hurt-it-worked way, the market forces way, became more than just a philosophy, it became a kind of moral atmosphere.

It was hard to resist the idea that philanthropy of any sort had had its day, because the Tories just kept on getting elected. It's nice to think that now people who dedicate their lives to making money, will simply be people who dedicate their lives to making money - no longer laying claim to some sort of moral high ground. Getting a little carried away, I'm wondering if there will be quite so much road rage in New Labour Britain.

More change: already I find myself reading the political pages of the newspaper. I eschew my usual diet of lifestyle pieces for the comment page. I have cut out and pinned up a list of the new cabinet ministers and attempted to memorise their names. I intend to listen to the Today show. Why? Simply because, for the first time, I am agog to know what will happen next.

Living with hope. This is a new and astonishing experience. Suddenly, it occurs to me that maybe the turn of the century isn't just a man-made accident of dates. Maybe things really will be different, perhaps it just might be a new era. Electoral reform could bring meaning to politics and bring politics to life - for good. Things can only get better - things may never be the same again.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Administrator - Chinese Speaking

    £17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly growing company is...

    Recruitment Genius: Start a Career as a Financial Markets Trader

    £40000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Become a professional Trader a...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation Consultant

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

    Day In a Page

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks