1992 was when I lost my political virginity. I can remember little of the 87 campaign, save for the post-poll Spitting Image. The lack of any discernible tension was exemplified by the finale to that show, a rendition of ‘Tomorrow belongs to me’ with Thatcher as the jack-booted singer. I didn’t get the Cabaret reference, being, as now, rather uncultured. I did think it poignant though, but missed the obvious point that it had been pre-recorded. There was no danger that it would fall flat on its face in the event of Labour actually winning. I also remember hearing the idea that Labour had won the campaign but lost the election, which sounded as daft and pointless as saying someone ran faster but finished second.

1992 was different. I felt like everything was coming together in my life. A-Levels were approaching, and the prospect of University. As Major was holding on to the last moment, there was no ‘will he, won’t he’ phony campaign; you knew it would by June. When Major went on April 9th, I was delighted. Even though there was a nagging fear that the removal of Thatcher had given them a chance, I was fully confident that we’d take them, and now, I knew when that day would be.

More than anything though, I’d be able to play my own part because the election was one day after my 18th birthday. I’d be able to vote, which given that I had no intention of smoking or riding a motorbike, and with sex something other teenagers did, voting was the rite of passage I’d been looking forward to all these years.

I lived in a rock-solid constituency, but college was in a key Tory marginal next door. I’d organised a debate between the two candidates at college earlier in the year, and gave the Labour candidate a call. As luck would have it, the campaign HQ was 10 minutes from my college, and served as the base for activity in 5 marginal seats in the immediate area. We’d finished the curriculum that Easter, so we had no classes during the campaign in favour of revision time. I spent most of my time at the HQ, calling people across constituencies and canvassing every night. The vibe was good. I wasn’t meeting Tories on the doorstep.

With some other friends, we were given tickets to the Sheffield Rally. It’s since gone down as the defining moment of Labour hubris. Kinnock’s ‘we’re alright!’ He’s since said that he knew then that Labour would lose and was trying to keep his chin up; that was overplayed and came out as embarrassing exuberance. He spoke magnificently, without notes or autocue, for over an hour. Barbara Castle was a warm-up speaker, and she too spoke without help aged 81. It was the first time I’d seen proper political oration, and sadly, it will probably be my last too. As we drove over the peak district back to Manchester, a poll on the radio said we were 10 points clear. Nothing was going to stop us now.

The day itself was, to my shame spent not getting the vote out, but processing it. I’d applied to be a poll clerk, and earned about ’80 for monitoring box LD in Heywood South ward from 7am until 10pm. As soon as it finished, I was met by a friend and we whizzed over to the Met Bar in Bury for the Bury North party, full of expectation. The exit poll was non-committal. Hung-Parliament. Hmm. Well, we thought, a coalition between Labour and the Libs. Basilson has since gone down in the popular mind as the moment it was clear the pendulum hadn’t swung, but I don’t remember it being like that at all.

The exit poll had caused doubt and the first results hadn’t shown the swing needed. Basildon prompted further doubt. I kept hoping beyond hope that things might change, but knew secretly that they wouldn’t. We’d been lied to, it seemed. Our result came in later: a tory majority of 7000 had been cut to 5000. Didn’t we do well!

The rest of the night blurred into a series of incidents, memories of which get poorer the more rum and coke I drank. Some Tories burst into the party at around 1am to sing ‘God Save the Queen’. We all cheered Don Foster’s victory over Chris Patton; the architect of our downfall was no more, and would suffer the indignity of a life in the diplomatic service. There was a row amongst the comrades when John Taylor failed to hold Cheltenham for the Tories after half his local party refused to work for a black candidate. One Labour member said it was a sad day for racial politics, but in the partisan atmosphere, there was more support for the argument that the only good tory was a defeated one.

Going home slumped in the back of my friend’s Volvo 240 listening to the 4am news, where it was announced that Kinnock had conceded. We went past a Labour billboard on the ring road around Bury and I started to cry.

My A-levels, though screwed up through not revising as much as I should, we just passable enough to get into university. And after some research with a combination of an election leaflet, the electoral roll and the phonebook, I managed to find the number of someone I’d seen a lot of in the campaign HQ and two weeks later, she was my first proper girlfriend. Doesn’t make up for rail privatisation though.