Amazon's best-selling book of 1996 was Creating Killer Web Sites by David Siegel. We were reading Primary Colors and didn't even know that Anonymous was Joe Klein. Game of Thrones was on its first volume and Bridget Jones had made the leap from newspaper to novel. Grant MacLennan had just died.
Fargo and Secrets and Lies ('Sweetheart?') were the only two decent films released, though my grandmother used me as cover to watch The Rock because she had a thing for Sean Connery (" ah 'gwan Sean! He's the grand fella"). Every student room except mine was decorated with posters from Transpotting and Pulp Fiction (which is why I've never seen either).
But aside from me being 21 and me being hip, handsome and right about everything, Britain was transfixed by the long and sorry tale of Mr Neil Hamilton, a rancid neo-fascist with a history of involvement in the worst aspects of the middle-class far-right: the Monday Club, the Western Goals crowd and the Italian MSI. He distinguished himself – if that's the word – by lobbying for apartheid South Africa, for tobacco companies without mentioning the cash they gave him and against withdrawing lead-free petrol. The Major government was collapsing amidst a welter of sexual, political and moral corruption. The Tories were destroying themselves over Europe (sound familiar?) and the civil war between their money and social wings erupted as the spivs were exposed by crusading newspapers like the Guardian.
Accused of taking bribes in brown envelopes from the owner of Harrods Mohammed Al-Fayed, of taking gifts and money from lobbyists and tobacco companies to ask Parliamentary questions without declaring them, Hamilton decided that he was the man to clean out the Augean Stables of the British press, and sued the Guardian, only to pull out at the last minute because he was bang to rights. He was then excoriated in the Downey Report into his behaviour in Parliament, and lost another libel case, this time against Mr Al-Fayed.
In the mythical golden age of decency, Neil Hamilton would have been left alone in the library with a revolver and a bottle of whiskey. He could equally have withdrawn from public life and devoted his remaining years to public works in atonement, as John Profumo did. He chose not to.
Why am I recounting this ancient history? Because the people of Wales, in their wisdom, have elected Mr Hamilton – in full knowledge that he is a disgusting corrupt white supremacist – as a member of the Welsh Assembly in the UKIP interest. Who says there are no second acts in politics?