`I kept jumping, I kept hopping, I kept grinning'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
"The Prime Minister, Tony Blair ..." Say the words again. "The Prime Minister, Tony Blair..." And again and again. See how they roll off the tongue.

Astonishing isn't it? And did you see him walk into No 10? Did you see the door close behind him?

As I sit and try to write, on the morning after the election, I keep jumping out of my seat and hopping round the room. I keep grinning.

I can't tear myself from the television. I am jittery with adrenalin and emotion.

"What does it feel like to be part of history?" one of the local councillors asked me, as we waited in Knottingley Sports Centre, for the Pontefract and Castleford result. Unreal.

By the time our count finished at 1.30am, we had already seen marginals tumble. Breathless and numb, we watched Peter Snow's swingometer zoom off the scale.

With every scalp, we yelped. Our own majority rose from 23,000 to 25,000, a mere pebble in the national landslide.

As if in a dream, I thanked the returning officers and the police.

Wide-eyed and grinning, I was hugged, kissed, photographed and hugged again by party supporters.

By 3am, unable to sleep, we were on the road to London, racing Tony Blair's plane from Sedgefield to get there for his celebration speech. When in glorious climax we all screamed as the radio announced Michael Portillo's defeat, the car almost swerved off the road.

Tearing through the empty, darkened London streets, we arrived at the Royal Festival Hall at sunrise to hear the crowds roar as Tony Blair began to speak.

Outside, people were ecstatic. Inside, party staff were too shell-shocked, elated and exhausted to smile.

"Now let's do it, let's deliver," I heard one MP whisper to himself like a prayer.

So far has the party travelled. Only five years ago, I stood on the steps of Walworth Road with a mere 50 Labour Party workers, bravely cheering and waving some limp roses as Neil Kinnock arrived to concede defeat, believing that we had just lost Labour's last chance to win.

Imagine if we could reach back in time to those gloom-stricken Labour supporters and tell them that in the next election, seats like Finchley and Enfield Southgate would choose Labour MPs.

I mean, Finchley, for goodness sakes? Finchley!

And seven Cabinet ministers gone, can you believe it? What an endorsement.

The world has really changed.