These are interesting times to be a Conservative. I have been active in politics only since 1997 so it's been one long battle against unpopularity, dispair and open hostility towards the Party whose ideals and basic principles I share.
It has also been a period when many of those principles have been unfashionable - 'political correctness' and 'nanny state' decision making designed to protect every citizen from any misfortune no matter how irresponsibly they behave or however much that misfortune has been self inflicted has been the popular order of the day.
Common accusations against the Conservative governments iof the 1980's and 1990's was that we were 'intolerant' - especially of anyone 'different' and that we were illiberal on law and order issues - all too often the accusation was not fair and contradicted by the facts. Conservatives introduced much socially liberalising legislation. Mrs Thatcher was typically Tory in her views about what Government should do to influence social and family behaviour- as little as is possible. Her view was always that the Government should try and stay out of peoples private lives and she was often surprisingly liberal minded on issues such as abortion, sexuality and marriage.
But interestingly it is the Labour Government who have turned out to be authoritarian and intolerant, imposing draconian measures against minority groups like smokers and the country sports fraternity and restricting our freedom by introducing ever more sweeping police powers , identity cards, thousands of new police cameras and suchlike.
At last the popular political tide seems to be shifting. Blairs defeat and our leadership contest are apparently unconnected events and yet one has a growing sense that they are linked - linked in some deeper way that reflects a shifting national psyche.
We have had false dawns before, but this time it is less to do with us, and a lot more to do with a deepening dislike of the direction Blair is heading.