Until six years ago, I’d lived in London all my life, and being in my mid-thirties, I have substantial memories of five prime ministers and a reasonably clear idea of the legacies of at least two or three. But after six years out of the country, I’m being reminded of how profoundly a government affects the mood of the country, especially in the waning days of a premiership, such is the case with Tony Blair’s Labour Party leadership.
Day-to-day changes often go unnoticed – apart from major political news events and crisis, naturally – but the changes over a six-year period are staggering.
First and foremost, it seems like Londoners have just given up. A broad generalization, I realize, but there is an undeniable sense of glumness that’s evident everywhere you turn. When I last lived here, the “New” Labour government was nearing the end of its jubilant first term. Everyone was young and hungry, and the future belonged to them. Now I see posters for government schemes that don’t mean anything to an outsider without explanation – and after asking around, quite often don’t mean anything to anyone that lives here either. The Brits have always scorned quangos, and now we have more than ever.