During that time - roughly 1996 to 1999 - I did a lot of interesting things, including stuffing envelopes, cold-calling angry, disinterested voters and being on hand at the Royal Festival Hall on the morning of May 2 1997 to hear Tony Blair say: "A new dawn has broken, has it not?" (Or something very similar. I was both exhausted and drunk; tired and emotional, you might say.)
And during that time I was fortunate (if that's the right word) to meet Tony Blair on a very small handful of occasions, and as he takes his leave of office today it seemed a good moment to recall them. I was a long way down the food chain at the Party, an organiser rather than an adviser, and pretty far removed from the corridors of power, so this is not an "I made him what he is today" story. But I do have one small insight and one revealing anecdote.
On all but one of the occasions I met him, and I can think of four times it happened, I was involved in some fairly low level activity or other - handing out leaflets or acting as a steward at an event. And what I would say about that was that at every occasion, Blair (and Cherie for that matter) would always take the time and stop and say "thanks" and ask how you were or whatever. One view, the cynical one I guess, of this is that Blair was a consumate politician and therefore doing that was like second nature to him - an automated response to a situation.
I'm not often one to dismiss the cynical view in favour of something that takes a somewhat more optimistic view of human behaviour, but in this instance I really think the Blairs were genuine. That they were genuinely grateful to people for mucking in and doing their bit, and understood that in their limited way they were contributing to the "project". Whether that humility and feet-firmly-on-the-ground attitude survived very long after they reached number 10, I have no idea. Living in that sort of rarified atmosphere must make staying "normal" (whatever the hell that means) bloody difficult.
Anyway, enough of that. The anecdote. One early Friday morning - I think it must have been sometime in 1998 - I helped a senior colleague organise a visit for Blair, by now the Prime Minister, to a disability forum in Hounslow Town Hall where he was due to make a speech about some aspect of health and disability policy that I have long forgotten.
I ended up in a little ante-room with Blair, my colleague Hilary Perrin and a handful of his advisors including Anji Hunter, his then gatekeeper, and Alastair Campbell (the only time I recall coming into direct contact with him). My job was to mike the PM up for his speech.
We were in there for about 15 minutes before the whole circus started and the atmosphere was very relaxed and got a little bawdy when Blair, who was clearly in a great mood and at his charming best that day, prompted Anji Hunter to tell us what they'd been doing that morning, and specifically what she had seen.
She obliged, explaining that they had apparently been at an anti-racism event at Chelsea Football Club's training ground and that during the course of this she had been in the changing room and had seen Gianluca Vialli's backside. Form the noises and gestures she made, I gathered she had enjoyed it.
This occasioned much hilarity, including from Blair, which in turn prompted Hunter to say, and I paraphrase: "Ha! You may laugh, but tell them what you did last night." And so he did.
Blair, and Mrs Blair, had been at the Donmar Warehouse, watching the now famous Blue Room starring Nicole Kidman.
"Did she really get her kit off?" someone (not me, I was too starstruck to actually talk) blurted out.
"Oh yeah," he said, with the now famous grin emerging. "But unfortunately her co-star spent a lot longer naked than she did. And I have to say, Cherie made some very unfavourable comparisons."
I loved him for that. And overall I think he did more good than harm (an assessment horribly skewed by the mess in Iraq) and I think, like many things, people will probably appreciate him more once he's gone. But now is the right time to go.