Why am I not Prime Minister, I was thinking. How could I have let my political career drift so?

Ithink I have detected the first signs of a feel-bad factor following the Labour election victory. I say "think", but actually there's no doubt in my own case. It first kicked in on the weekend following the result, though I had noticed some early twinges while watching the footage of the Blair family arriving at 10 Downing Street, surrounded by jubilant faces and Union Jacks. And what I felt looking at this scene, buried somewhere beneath the sense of hope and the excitement of other people's excitement, was a whisper of private dismay: "Why am I not Prime Minister?" I was thinking. How could I have let my political career drift so? Of course, I should have taken heart from the fact that I had neglected to launch it in the first place (indeed, I hadn't even got round to buying a pair of deck shoes), but then that in itself suddenly seemed a regrettable miscalculation, one that was rather too late to correct. (Whatever happens at the next election, it is unlikely to be distinguished by the number of first-time Labour MPs it introduces to the House.) And though the feeling must have been worse for those who had more solid credentials for envy (in one of the few endearing things he has ever said, John Redwood confessed that he couldn't even bear to look at the coverage), you didn't need to be a politician to feel a little left behind.

This feeling got worse over the weekend, peaking on Sunday after a long trawl through the papers, which were stuffed from cover to cover with the excited responses of new members, thrilled to find they were part of the cup-winners' team. That first Sunday was a day of fast-moving weather, with passages of bright sunshine giving way to unexpected clouds - and that seemed exactly right somehow, a reflection of the odd, mixed mood induced by the election, with the landscape at one moment shining and at the next suddenly dulled, as if a low cloud had scudded across the sun.

This wasn't, I should make it clear, anything to do with political second- thoughts: the charm of transformation hasn't palled yet and the starburst of the Tory party, exploding as if in celebration, still hangs in the sky to divert us (Look! There goes Ann Widdecombe, spiralling down into a distant garden with an eerie shriek). Nor was it just a champagne hangover, the crapulous realisation that all that effervescence would inevitably go flat; Labour's first week in office kept the corks popping, each day bringing another confirmation that things really were going to change, whatever the consequences might be.

I'm afraid the melancholy was less reputable than that - an inflammation of the ambition glands that had very little to do with political affiliations and everything to do with the tick of the clock, suddenly loud in one's ears. I hope that this doesn't afflict the young in quite the same way, but for quite a few people of the Prime Minister's generation, his precocious triumph will have brought forward mid-life crises that were not scheduled for a few years yet. There has been such a surfeit of youthful success in the past few weeks (Michael Jackson's Blairite progress to the supremacy at Channel 4 hasn't exactly helped either) that it has been virtually impossible not to run a quick progress check on one's own life, and even if you had taken your contentment for granted, you would be likely to feel mildly wistful at the spectacle of such rapid upward propulsion, and wonder a little about the road not travelled. Whoever noted that we are all capable of bearing the misfortunes of others left the corollary unstated -that it is a strong man who doesn't buckle a little under the weight of other people's success

I can think of only two consolations for this mild dejection. One is that it simply will not last. "Missing the boat" may be a cliche, but it is an unimprovable one in the exactitude with which it captures the slow but dependable fading of disappointment. At first you pace restlessly on the dock and stare at the departing vessel, distracted by fantasies in which it turns back or you bribe the harbour master to ferry you out in the pilot boat. And while it remains on this side of the horizon, it is very difficult not to keep turning for another look at its diminishing form, imagining what it would feel like to be on board. Eventually, though, the last wisp of smoke has gone and you discover that the port might have its attractions after all. It helps at such times to remember Eliot's line from The Family Reunion: success, he wrote, is "what we can make of the mess we have made of things".

The second consolation is that you can never be entirely sure what lies over the horizon yourself, however dull and featureless the prospect. Only a few years ago, I have it on good authority, a well-known public figure suffered an attack of self-doubt of exactly the kind that the Labour landslide will have induced in many. He had trained as a lawyer before changing his career and now the colleagues he had left behind were beginning to take silk and advance towards high honours. To salt the wound, he felt he was trapped in a career doldrums himself, no hint of an imminent breeze and no obvious route to better things. He even contemplated cutting his losses entirely and returning to the law. Maybe he didn't really mean it - maybe this was just the sort of chest-clearing we all indulge in at low points - but whatever the case he will, no doubt, be glad that he stayed the course for a little longer because his name was Tony Blair

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Business Development Manager Content/Subscriptions

£50k + commission: Savvy Media Ltd: Great opportunity to work for a team that ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker