18. The election as seen by two candidates.

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Chris Mullin was Labour candidate in the safe Labour seat of Sunderland South while Gyles Brandreth contested the marginal constituency of City of Chester for the Conservatives. Their diaries give an insight into how the 1997 campaign was viewed on the ground.

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Mullin: 3 April
… there is no disguising the fact that every word he [Tony Blair] utters is designed to pander to the meaner elements of the middle classes, the Sierra owners, as he calls them.

Brandreth: 14 April
What election? It’s a non-event. Nothing happening out there. … Listening to the radio, watching TV, scanning the papers, it’s as though they’re covering a movie of an election, a soap opera, that you can tune into if you’re so inclined ...

Mullin: 15 April
To Tynemouth, one of the North East’s few marginal seats. … We found several former Tories who were coming with us this time. … One woman said the gap between rich and poor had grown too great. I came away heartened.

Brandreth: 24 April
I spoke at Christleton High School at lunch-time. A large crowd, mostly hostile, including a chippy teacher in a black short and seed-packet tie with his hands in his jeans and asked about sleaze. I was loud and theatrical, and almost certainly rather ridiculous.

Mullin: 24 April
We’re going to lose. … The massive rubbishing to which our man [Blair] has been subject is paying off. … We have spent too much time apologising for the past, and it has undermined our credibility. BRITAIN IS BOOMING, DON’T LET LABOUR SPOIL IT, shout the Tory hoardings. They are everywhere, eclipsing our pathetic little promises which no one believes anyway.

Brandreth: 1 May
A little after midnight we donned our glad rags, adjusted our brave faces and made our way up the hill to the Town Hall. … Our result wasn’t due for a couple of hours at least. I spent the time wandering between the press room, the count, and the TV room where a large screen had been erected to display the results. It was so relentlessly bad for us, the other parties’ supporters had stopped cheering. They just looked on amazed.

Mullin 1 May
Not until I reached the count at around 10.30 p.m. and glanced at the table in the centre where the votes were laid out in bundles of a thousand did I realize that something astonishing was about to happen. … Only one little fly in the ointment: the turnout has collapsed ... In some parts of Sunderland less than half of the electorate voted … The alienation is massive. Especially amongst the young.

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“18. The election as seen by two candidates.,” New Dawn? 1997, accessed February 28, 2024, https://newdawn1997.omeka.net/items/show/39.

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