Friday, May 06, 2005

It's not 1997, but...

Living now in a constituency where they weigh the Tory vote, there was little chance of me feeling this morning like I felt on that spring morning in 1997 when I left the count in Peckham with the sun rising on a fresh new dawn of hope and promise (Ah nostalgia...!)

But it is significant that Tony Blair has won a histoiric third term. The Labour Party is no longer the means by which the electorate punishes the Conservatives which it otherwise sees as the natural party of government. It now genuinely offers an alternative way of running the country; one that marries economic competence with social justice. And it has forced the Tories to rethink some of their attitudes - it's notable that they don't seem to be committed to abolishing the minimum wage, for example.

The significantly reduced majority might make Labour's third term very different from his first two, but I for one hope that we don't now have months of tiresome speculation about how long Blair serves before handing over to Gordon Brown.

My hope is that this result will be good for the world's poor. Although it figured very little in the campaign, Blair is the only UK and European leader committed to doing something about debt and trade - as is shown by his commission on Africa. My prayer is that he will be able to achieve some of the goals of the Make Poverty History campaign, starting at the Gleneagle's G8 meetings.

Perhaps like a US president in their second term, Blair, knowing that he never has to face re-election, might be emboldened to seek his place in history as the world leader who actually made a difference to the lives of the one and half billion living on less than a dollar a day. What better lagacy for a man committed to social justice could there be?

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