Be careful what you wish for . . .
Twenty-six years ago this month, I sank into a slough of despond.
Chelsea, whom I had followed with a passion since the age of nine, (including saving up money I earned from pumping petrol to travel to London for the odd match), were relegated from the First Division, amassing a mere twenty points from forty-two games. Being a Chelsea supporter had offered nothing but disappointment; their last trophy had been eight years previously. Peter Osgood, their legendary forward from times past, had returned to the club in mid-season and had scored the opening goal in his first match. Even his presence was of no avail, they lost that match 7-2 and went on to lose a lot more matches.
The same month, May 1979, Mrs Thatcher came to power. I had been a committed member of the Labour Party, despite the dithering politics of Jim Callaghan’s Government, and to watch Margaret Thatcher quoting words of Francis of Assisi as she celebrated her victory was almost too much to take.
It was to be eighteen years before there was cause for jubilation. In May 1997, Chelsea won the FA Cup, twenty-seven years after their previous FA Cup win and Tony Blair swept into Downing Street with a landslide majority. I even got a copy of the official BBC Election video so I could relive the special moments, like Michael Portillo losing his seat.
Eight years on from that FA Cup and election win, I should be jubilant again. In the space of a week Chelsea have won the Premiership, with a record number of points, and Tony Blair has prolonged his stay in Downing Street with a majority large enough to carry the Government through to 2010.
Except there is a despondent feeling. Chelsea were a ‘make do’ club, they got by on slim resources and were unpredictable, sometimes brilliant sometimes terrible. Even in the last few years they could get knocked out of European competition by part-timers. All that changed in 2003 when Roman Abramovich bought the club, since which time they have spent £200 million on new players. This is not the way you would want to win.
Labour were a radical party. Sometimes they didn’t do things well, but I felt their heart was in the right place. All that changed with Mr Blair’s makeover of the party. Now it so innocuous that it has the backing of Rupert Murdoch, a sure sign that they are not challenging people of wealth and power.
A Chelsea title and a Labour victory in the space of a week would have been something I would have dearly wished for; but when the title is bought and the victory brings no prospect of a new world, then maybe it’s better if wishes are better not granted.
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