That was the year that was: 1997

Submitted by Janine on Thu, 12/08/2005 - 22:27

Off on long-term sick, I'm passing some time sorting through various stuff. In particular, I am dispensing with those obsolete items known as floppy disks. Which is some task, as I have hundreds of them.

Over the last few days, I have trawled collections of political files from around 1997 onwards, several of which have been worth posting onto the Workers' Liberty website for posterity. So here's a personal review of the year, with links to the rescued documents ...

In 1997, I started working on London Underground, spending the year as a Station Assistant at Oxford Circus and Holborn stations. Like every station, most passengers are perfectly pleasant human beings. But Holborn is also frequented by besuited City types, and on Friday evenings, many of them would come through after have a few to drink after work, some failing to disguise their contempt for uniformed Underground workers.

Usually, they would be triumphantly happy, secure in their riches and having probably just made a multi-million deal over a bottle of bubbly. Except on Friday 2 May, the day after Labour won the General Election and ended 18 years of Tory rule. I was working a late turn, and even sleep deprivation and hangover could not take the smile off my face. Unlike the aforementioned besuited City types, most of whom looked thoroughly miserable.

Perhaps they need not have worried. Only a few months had passed when New Labour announced cuts in lone parent benefit, prompting a rebellion by 61 Labour MPs. One rebel was Brian Sedgemore, my local MP in Hackney South and Shoreditch, who I had canvassed for. (His political career came to sorry end this year (click the link and scroll down to near the end)).

The new Labour government was also preparing legislation on employment rights. Bit by bit, Labour in opposition had diluted its commitment to repal Tory anti-union laws. Now in office, it was letting the CBI tell it do dilute even further.

In the summer, I went on the annual Pride march, and helped distribute this AWL leaflet.

Elsewhere in the world, students were fighting fees in Germany and Korean trade unions fought job cuts.

In November, AWL conference discussed our political tradition, the fight for a workers' government, reform and revolution, how we organise, and the various campaigns we are/were involved in.

And me? I was living in Hackney, at the famous (or infamous) 92 Eleanor Road, which will be fondly remembered by my then housemates Cath and Dick, and the hundreds of visitors who passed through our doors, whether for parties, politics, or (ahem) overnight stays. And remembered less fondly by the residents of numbers 90 and 94.

I was mostly listening to the Verve's Urban Hymns (please play 'Bittersweet Symphony' at my funeral), Blur's Blur, Paul Weller's Heavy Soul, and still listening to What's The Story Morning Glory?, released two years previously by Oasis, and still one of my all-time favourite albums. I think most other people, though, were listening to Radiohead's OK Computer, and the latest offerings from The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers.

Tune in to this blog later this week for a journey through 1998.