Euan McColm: The cringe of England boycott MP Lee Anderson is off the scale

It’s important to cringe, every now and then. It proves we’re learning.

England's Harry Kane takes a knee in support of Black Lives Matter movement prior the Euro 2020 soccer semifinal match between England and Denmark
England's Harry Kane takes a knee in support of Black Lives Matter movement prior the Euro 2020 soccer semifinal match between England and Denmark

If brooding on some obscure and insignificant moment from the past then shuddering so hard with shame that you want to fold up like a deckchair isn’t part of your routine, then how are you ever going to be the best you that you can be?

The Conservative MP Lee Anderson is, right now, setting up a future cringe that will, one day, double him up. He’ll be standing in the hot-dog queue in Ikea and it’ll all come flooding back and bones will snap.

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Before the European football championships, Anderson announced he would be boycotting the games of his “beloved” England squad because of players’ decision to take the knee before matches

Tory MP Lee Anderson

Doubtless, Anderson fancies himself a great, independent thinker whose boycott is a noble act. It is not, he says, that he doesn’t believe that black lives matter but that he can’t endorse what he describes as a political movement whose core principles aim to undermine our very way of life. Anderson is one of those guys.

With each successive England victory, the MP’s boycott of the team looks increasingly foolish. And it turns out Anderson’s boycott isn't even a proper boycott, any more.

His position now is that he will monitor the score on his phone while unpacking boxes in his new home. In just three weeks, Anderson has gone from announcing an outright boycott to admitting that, okay, he will be following the match but he’ll be doing it in the most unsatisfying and inconvenient way possible.

This is pettiness of the highest order and we should marvel at Anderson’s commitment to the art. Even as the needle bounces off the right of the meter, he continues making himself look an arse.

One day, he will learn from this. And he will think again before making any rash declarations.

It is useful to confront our past idiocies. And reliving yours is entertaining for the rest of us.

My friend, Cat, a lifelong radical socialist, cringes to recall the night she stormed out of tetchy political meeting only to find, after slamming the door behind her, that she wasn’t in a corridor in the community centre but inside a large stationary cupboard.

Mortified, she remained inside the cupboard for the rest of the meeting. During the break, a comrade brought her a cup of tea which she accepted through a crack in the door.

Rarely a day goes by where I don’t wince as my brain involuntarily reminds me of this thing I once said to a girlfriend’s parents in 1987 or the way I was with the guard on the train last Friday.

You can never outrun this phenomenon. Not only does the human brain have a remarkable capacity to file away countless seemingly insignificant moments that, on close examination, show us at our worst, the older one gets, the greater the number of these moments becomes.

We are all, to some degree or other, works in progress.

For those of us with a fondness for pathos, Lee Anderson delivers. In his Facebook video announcing his decision to continue not watching matcher, Anderson says he’ll be cheering if he checks his phone and finds England have scored. What a weird little man.

A depressing aspect of these European championships has been the decision of some England fans to boo when players take the knee. Yes, these exhausting people have been largely drowned out by the cheers of the supportive majority, but they do exist.

There's something especially ugly about white supporters booing the mixed-race England team as its members briefly kneel before kick-off. I wonder how it is possible to do this and still legitimately consider yourself a supporter of the team.

The popular justification for booing is that players are not, in fact, making a statement about racism but are endorsing - in the Black Lives Matter campaign - a Marxist project.

Do most people, watching players take the knee, think they’re signalling support for a Marxist revolution? I don’t think they do but, then, I’ve clearly not though as long and hard as Lee Anderson has about the whole thing.

The hugely likeable England manager Gareth Southgate has done wonders in repairing the damaged reputation of the England team.

Emotionally intelligent, and socially progressive, Southgate offers a version of English patriotism that’s so much more appealing that Lee Anderson’s.

And while Southgate may be a fine leader, the current team is speckled with young stars who’ve used the power of their profiles to fight racism or campaign for poor children to be fed. How did someone stupid enough to set himself at odds with this exemplary group of young men ever manage to win enough votes to get into parliament?

Regardless of their political persuasion, the smart English MP is, right now, an unequivocally committed supporter of the national football team. Even Boris Johnson is pretending to care about tonight’s match.

Lee Anderson, a puffed-up little Captain Mainwairing sort (aren’t they always?) has managed to exclude himself from a moment of massive importance to the people of England, leaving other, smarter political operators to exploit the passion on display.

What will Anderson do if England win, tonight? Will it be a standing ovation while locked in the hall cupboard or perhaps a silent prayer while standing alone in the loft. How will this odd wee man react?

I cringe to imagine.

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