The view from 1997

Tony Blair celebrates becoming Prime Minister with his wife Cherie Blair
Tony Blair celebrates becoming Prime Minister with his wife Cherie Blair

They say that hindsight comes with 20/20 vision. This week some new friends and I had a jolly time with hindsight when we went back in time to the world of British politics in 1997.

No, we weren’t passengers in Dr Who’s time-travelling Tardis, but we were working as extras in a forthcoming BBC drama “From There to Here”, filmed in and around Manchester.

The high-prestige three-parter, starring Bernard Hill of “Boys From The Blackstuff” and “Titanic” fame, will follow the joys and conflicts of a northern family over several years, against a backdrop of the Manchester bombing, the 1997 Blair election landslide, the Millennium celebrations and so on.

The production company was faithfully re-creating a 1997 General Election count in a fictional northern town hall, and the dozens of extras (or “Supporting Artists” as we prefer to be called) were acting as busy vote counters and anxious party workers awaiting the results.

Inbetween takes, we amused ourselves by pretending we really were back in 1997, but with the benefit of what we know in 2013.

“What do you think of that Tony Blair chap, then?”

“Wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw a gas oven.”

“What do you mean? He seems such a nice bloke. Always smiling.”

“Give him a year or two and he’ll be bombing some Middle East country.”

“Come off it, nobody could be that crazy.”

“He will if the Yanks want him to.”

It wasn’t just Blair-bashing that amused us.

One candidate at our count was from the Referendum Party, millionaire James Goldsmith’s anti-Europe outfit.

“Oh, yes, they’re going to be big, mark my words,” and we chuckled knowingly. Anybody out there still remember the Referendum Party? Thought you wouldn’t.

Another candidate was from the Socialist Labour Party, set up by miners’ leader Arthur Scargill to oppose Blair’s “New Labour”.

“Oh, yes, Arthur’s in touch with ordinary folk. His party’s going to take over from mainstream Labour.”

“No chance, he’ll just slink away to cultivate his comb-over.”

Now to the ultimate prediction from our fantasy 1997...

At one point we learn that in the real-life General Election, Tory star Michael Portillo has lost his seat in Enfield Southgate.

“Well, we’ll never, ever see his face on telly again!”