1st May 1997: Tony Blair is swept to power as Labour Prime Minister. Celebrating in the Royal Festival Hall that night is Peter (now Lord) Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, contributing to a seismic electoral shift in British politics.
Looking back, I wonder if I, too, contributed to this election victory.
The story begins in the late 1950s in Hampstead Garden Suburb, north London, where I spent a very happy childhood. The area was home to future Labour politicians Peter Mandelson and Charles Clarke, as well as Harold Wilson and his Education Secretary (196768), Patrick Gordon Walker, an interesting combination given the affluent nature of the Suburb.
Peter lived with his family across the road from my house and added to our gang of small boys who used to rampage around the quiet streets throwing crabapples and firing water pistols. The latter activity was curtailed after we accidentally hit a baby being wheeled along by Mick Mcmanus, a popular wrestler at the time.
We also built wooden go-karts, which we called ‘contraptions’ for some inexplicable reason. These could build up some speed down the paths of our local wood and gave us at least great pleasure, but not so much the passers-by who had to get out of the way.
I was quite anxious about the ‘health and safety’ aspects of this. So I installed seatbelts in our machines, using the old rubberised belts with the S-shaped clasp familiar to those of a certain age.
One day, I raced down the path behind Peter, who, for some reason, suddenly stopped, leading me to crash heavily into his go-kart. He then violently lurched forward in his seat, but luckily his seatbelt worked and stopped him from being thrown into a tree head first.
What would have happened to the future New Labour project if he had been badly injured? We shall never know, but it amuses me to think about it.
By Edward Zanders, who receives £50. Readers are invited to send in their own 400-word submissions about the past
Edward Zanders is author of ‘A Suburb Childhood – Growing Up in Hampstead Garden Suburb in the 1950s and 60s’ (Merak Publishing)
More Memory Lanes on the Oldie App See page 7
Looking ahead: Mandelson (front) and Zanders (back right), Hampstead, 1957