View from the Bridge: 37

by John Morrison


37: End of Innocence

It's said that everyone can remember exactly what they were doing when Michael Portillo contrived to lose one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Well, everyone except our Town Drunk, who generally has trouble remembering which way is up. Most other Milltown folk, blessed with the priceless ability to delight in other peoples' misfortunes, were laughing so hard that they became giddy and had to have a little lie-down.

After the general election, millions of triumphant Labour voters were punching the air like demented bit-players in a Coca Cola advert. But already they're becoming disillusioned. Reality is setting in, as predictably as hoar-frost on a winter's morning. The process of converting precious ideals into the base-metal of pragmatism takes most of us about twenty years, as life takes its toll on youthful dreams of a better world. The Labour government, in contrast, has managed the job in less than nine months.

With a speed that won't surprise anyone who has read George Orwell's Animal Farm, Labour MPs are tossing their pledges and committments to the four winds. It's a convincing illustration that "whoever you vote for, it's the government that gets in".

What with the Tories asking the government not to cut benefits for the disabled and single mothers, and Labour ministers rivalling Marie Antionette for capricious sophistry, is it any wonder the voters are disorientated? After all, suggesting that we can get disabled people back to work by cutting their benefits makes no more sense than getting them to walk again by confiscating their wheelchairs.

So thank goodness there's something that will unite us all, no matter which way we voted. Yes, the Milennium Dome, already taking shape on some God-forsaken meander of the Thames. It'll be enormous. Big enough, we hear, to hold two Wembley Stadiums, a notion which would make more sense if we had two Wembley stadiums. The dome will cost 750 million. But, hey, how far does 750 million go these days?

Drivers of older cars will understand the sheer excitement of watching the mileometer tick over from 99,999 to 1000,000. This, in essence, is what we'll be celebrating in two years time. We in Milltown can barely conceal our indifference.

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