ANDY Murray’s five-set victory at Flushing Meadows to win the US Open ranks among the greatest ever Scottish sporting triumphs.
To become the first Briton to win a Grand Slam since a Brylcreemed Fred Perry did so in the pre-TV age is an extraordinary achievement. There were those who had dismissed Murray as “a choker”, questioning his ability to perform when the going got tough. Well, this young man from Dunblane has proved his doubters wrong. This newspaper adds its warmest congratulations to the many he has already deservedly received.
Perhaps predictably, this moment of sporting history has become a political football. The observation that Murray, in the eyes of the metropolitan media, was a Brit when he won and a Scot when he lost, started out as a bit of fun but has since become an issue that outrages many a Scottish Nationalist. Similarly, there are supporters of the Union who see any sighting of Murray within 20ft of a red, white and blue flag as a hammer blow to the Yes camp in the independence referendum.
True to form, there were some indications yesterday that politicians are already lining up to appropriate Murray’s moment for their own political and constitutional ends. This is not the first time this summer this has happened. Sir Chris Hoy, a proud Scot who carried the Union Flag at the Olympic opening ceremony, has attracted similar political interest.
The politicians should back off. Murray’s win is a great Scottish triumph. It is also a great British triumph. Similarly, it is a triumph for any tennis fan who loves a fighter, or any student of human nature who loves to see someone conquer their personal demons. Most of all, it is a personal triumph for a man who has found success through skill, grit, perseverance and the gradual mastery of his temperament.
There is, however, an appropriate place for politicians in the discussion about Murray’s win. They might want to reflect that the Scot’s success could be said to be despite – and not as a result of – the infrastructure for tennis in Scotland.
To put it mildly, this is not a country with a long and illustrious history of tennis success. But you can guarantee that Murray’s Olympic gold medal and US Open breakthrough will inspire many a young Scot to pick up a racket and try to perfect the audacious strokes of their new sporting hero. The question is whether there are sufficient tennis courts in serviceable condition across Scotland to match this surge of enthusiasm, and sufficient coaches to spot and develop tennis talent.
All across Scotland are desultory-looking tarmac tennis courts with fading baselines and weeds growing out of cracks. If Scotland’s politicians want to bask in the reflected glory of Andy Murray’s victory, they should commit themselves to making sure he is just the first in a long line of Scottish tennis heroes.
Booing is a sign of the times
You might have thought politicians would be wise to the perils of speaking to a potentially troublesome audience. Apparently not. Tony Blair was famously booed by the Women’s Institute. Successive UK health secretaries have faced catcalls at nursing conferences. George Osborne was booed last week at the Paralympics. And now, the latest politician to be treated like a pantomime baddie is Labour’s shadow chancellor
Ed Balls, while lecturing trade
unionists about strike action.
We should welcome any occasion where the rhetoric and posturing of politicians comes into bruising contact with the real world. Politicians increasingly inhabit a bubble, and the more often it is intruded upon by people on the receiving end of their policies, the better for everyone.
Balls should not be particularly surprised at his reception by trade unionists. Labour may have a view that the coalition’s cuts are “too deep and too fast”, but what will not have escaped trade unionists’ attention is that Balls is signed up to a programme of cuts which are still, in historical terms, a substantial diminution of the public sector in this country.
Labour may quibble about the scale and disagree about the priorities – and there are very real differences between the parties on whether austerity alone can deliver growth – but if it were Balls in Number 11 Downing Street, there would still be many public sector services under threat and many public sector employees facing the dole.
The booing of Balls is, then, a sign of the times: a sign both of the scale of Britain’s financial difficulties in the face of the
economic crisis, and a sign of the broad political consensus on how to deal with it.