And so, after months of speculation, Tony Blair has announced that he will stand down as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007, ten years after he was elected. The BBC news featured a slightly rose-tinted look at his life in power, accompanied by the Oasis track Don't look back in Anger and claim that after 10 years the general public will know whether they think Blair was a success.
Which got me thinking - what does this mean to me? So here goes, the Labour years as relevant to me. I have done my main period of growing up to the backdrop of Blair; I was a child before he came to power, I am an adult now he is leaving.
In 1997 I was 15. It was the end of my fourth year, one year away from GCSEs. Politics didn't mean a huge amount to me in 1997. I remember my parents staying up to find out the election results and there being a general sense of excitment - that there was a new party; a new vision for the future. A New Labour. It didn't mean too much though - my knowledge of the conservative years was gained later, at university. But for me, well, I suppose I was more concerned with teenage issues than national ones. Getting a boyfriend, getting good grades, gymnastics, sailing, friends, parties. Those were my daily issues, not politics. I didn't really give university much thought, other than the fact I knew I wanted to go to Exeter and I wanted to read English. Fees weren't something that even entered my mind. Maybe they should have done. Two of the schools in the area merged; our gymnastics club had to be moved. Local issues - national problems, but again, not something that really bothered me.
In 1998 I started sixth form; I started to become more aware of national issues, of politics, of economics. More aware, but uninterested. Too many distractions. I suppose I was aware that the Americans had attacked Iraq, but if I was, I don't remember. A levels, parties, drinking, learning to drive and university applications were more prevelant.
In 2000 I went up to university. My parents paid the fees and I signed up to the student loans company to pay for the rest. In 2001 foot and mouth disease struck and I worried for farmers, particularly my aunt and uncle. I voted in my first election (more out of a sense of obligation to women dying for the vote than because I favoured one party or that I was particularly interested). In September that year I sat in a restaurant in Gran Canaria and watched terrorists fly planes into the World Trade Centre. I didn't know where it was until Bush came onto the television to make a speech as the commentary was in Spanish. My main thoughts centred on friends and family - we had lived in America for 2 years in the late 1980s and we had many friends still there, as well as worrying that a simultaneous attack would occur in the UK. My flight was the first one allowed back into London and I suddenly felt very small and vulnerable in a large world where I had very little control.
In 2002 I moved into a house in Exeter with 3 friends. One was studying for an MA in Middle Eastern Politics, another dating a Royal Engineer. We sat together on the sofa one evening in March 2003 glued to BBC New 24 watching the allied troops invading Iraq, wondering how it was that England had become involved in such a war, and praying desperately that Stuart would survive his time in Iraq unscathed. 4 years on, Stuart has returned but many other of our friends have qualified as officers and are currently in Iraq leading troops in form and another. My interest in politics increased through personal fear and an amazing resource of information living in the next room.
In 2004 I moved to London, to start Law School. The government announced top up fees for university and I took out loans to pay for my continuing education. Interest rates were still low - I gave little thought to what would happen if they started to rise (which of course they did and still are).
And now, in 2007, I am a trainee solicitor, with bills and debts, a rented flat and an oyster card. I am more cynical, more aware and it is only recently I have started to use the tube again without thinking twice. Interest rates have sunk and risen again; I know that the NHS is better than it was, yet my friends who are nurses and doctors still complain of the long hours, poor pay and shambolic junior doctor application systems. I am able to see my doctor if I turn up and wait, but I can't get an appointment until the next week. I pay almost £7 for a prescription. Yet I know that the NHS is better than it was (although I can't understand why my sister at university in Wales gets free prescriptions). I did have a pension but in changing jobs I have to transfer it (there is no pension at my new job) and I don't trust the state pension scheme.