Mem­ory Lane

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

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

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