But for some time now it's been apparent that this state of affairs no longer exists. Since Mrs Thatcher destroyed the old working class- on which the old Labour party relied- a new liberal-capitalist consensus has been established and with it a new political elite- made up of lawyers and investment bankers and advertising men and people who've never done anything but work in politics- which divides up into parties almost at random. We're back where we were in the Edwardian age, when the two main parties handed power backwards and forwards between them on the principle of "Buggins turn" and- in the words of Hillaire Belloc-
The accursed power that stands on privilege
And goes with women and champagne and bridge
Broke- and democracy resumed her reign-
Which goes with bridge and women and champagne.
A day or two back an event took place that set the seal on this new-old dispensation. Labour premier Gordon Brown welcomed Mrs Thatcher- the old class enemy- to Number 10, posed with her on the front doorstep and told us how much he admired her and how he and she were both "conviction politicians"- whatever that means.
For someone like me who grew up in that pocket of time when ideology mattered- to whom the Tories were always toffee-nosed scum and Mrs Thatcher "that evil woman"- it's all terribly bewildering. The world as I knew it has passed away. Because I'm the age I am and was brought up to believe it my privilege and duty to participate in the electoral process I've never yet failed to cast my vote in an important election, but I do now wonder why I should bother.