David Maddox: Hiding behind sporting success won’t fool the voters
BORIS Johnson, currently Mayor of London and, for some, Tory leader-in-waiting, is one of the few big personality politicians who can make a gaffe and somehow get away with it.
His performance on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday was typical. Asked if he thought there “is a danger of overdoing the gloom” and if Prime Minister David Cameron was being guilty of this by suggesting the economic woes will continue for another eight years, Mr Johnson, who had somehow kept himself to the party script throughout the interview, found it impossible to resist just being himself.
“I don’t think there is any reason at all why it should go on another eight years,” he said. There was a pause as his mind digested the thought that he had just made Cameron look a little foolish, then came a classic Boris tangent.
“Look Bradley Wiggins is about to win the Tour de France. How about that? How can anybody in the country be gloomy when Bradley Wee-Geens …?”
While few politicians would be so blatant in using sport as a diversionary tactic, it has to a certain extent replaced religion as what Marx described as the “opium of the people.”
It was interesting that the sight of the very same Wiggins crossing the line in Paris had Mr Cameron scurrying out of his bunker. He will be praying that a cascade of British gold in the London Olympics will help everyone forget about the lack of it in their pockets.
What is noticeable is, that in contrast to previous recent summers, the government machines in Edinburgh and London have been largely silent for the parliamentary recesses, which suggests that both administrations would rather people did not pay them too much attention.
Of course, using sport as a distraction is nothing new. Nero offered bread and circuses and Tony Blair took to dolling out instant knighthoods to sports stars and playing keepy-uppy with Kevin Keegan. Even Margaret Thatcher tried to use sport to boost her popularity, although her appearance at Hampden didn’t help her popularity in Scotland much.
It could be the coalition is keen on having an independence referendum in 2013, post-Olympics when Scot, Sir Chris Hoy, is expected to lead out the British team and win lots of medals. Or it may be why Alex Salmond prefers 2014 after Scotland competes on its own in the Commonwealth Games.
The truth is that while sport can create great moments of joy it only changes the course of political events because of what happens around it, as was the case with the South Africa boycott and protests over apartheid.
The old term “90-minute patriots” describing Scots, who’s nationalism is largely focussed on football, shows that when the final whistle has been blown or the medals handed out we all return to the reality of our everyday lives.
An uncomfortable fact which leaves Cameron & Co. back at the starting line.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
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