Christmas is a time for solidarity

A contribution from Lee Jameson, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Newquay and St. Austell

With the festive season upon us at the end of a tough year for millions, we should now reassert solidarity with our fellow man.

This year has seen the global economy stumble further and unemployment rise across North America and Europe. That is not a matter of statistics. And it is not just some concern to the markets. It is people losing their livelihoods and with it the certainty and security we all desperately want for our families.

The mortgage chaos of recent years has also meant people giving up or being cast out of their homes. And again, this is happening well beyond our national borders.

Meanwhile the hardship of life in the poorest parts of the world continues as severe weather, political turmoil, and deadly disease kill and disrupt the lives of billions.

So as we prepare to enjoy Turkey and mince pies on the 25th of December, or perhaps the seventh of January, we should remember that Christmas is about our duty to one another.

I’m not talking about compassion for those in need, but solidarity. If one of us is in trouble, we are all in trouble. That is why we pay taxes, donate to charities, and give our time generously to help those most in need. It isn’t because there but for the grace of go we. It is because we are there with them already.

But this year has not only seen the suffering of many. It has also seen the prosperity of an undeserving few.

In the past people talked of a politics of envy. But the nation has not grown angry at bankers’ bonuses and MPs’ expenses because we are envious. We have grown angry because as our collective lives get harder it frustrates us to see callous people share no solidarity with those whose hardships make their privileged lives possible.

To see people carry on regardless is one of the hardest things for a Labour supporter. It spits in the face of every man woman and child in the country who believes that people can and should be better than the selfish and uncaring stereotype some people revel in being.

So as we enter the New Year we must remember to lead by example and act with solidarity in our hearts. Doing that will improve the world despite the efforts of those who avoid their responsibilities.

Merry Christmas

Lee Jameson

PPC Newquay and St. Austell

Tony’s big Euro-adventure

 

A Contribution from Atticus Finch

Once upon a time, there was a cheeky boy known as Tony Blair. Tony had many friends in that frontier town known as Westminster Village who helped him to make the world a better place.  His very best friend went by the name of Gordie Brown.  Gordie helped Tony with his pocket money and made sure he didn’t spend it all on sweets.

Sure, those nasty bully boys from Notting Hill often poked fun at his wide, beaming grin and sought to undo the good work he had done, but Tony didn’t let this grind him down. Instead he doubled up his efforts to make Westminster Village a happy and fair place for all boys and girls. 

Years went by and Tony did very well indeed. He and his friends had become the most popular gang in the village, as well as making friends in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Thanks to Tony, all the boys and girls could recite their ABCs and were given the same amount of spends by their mums and dads.

One day, Tony decided that he had been top boy of Westminster Village for long enough.  Gordie very kindly agreed to take his place so that the boys and girls wouldn’t miss him too much and off Tony went, skipping merrily into the sun.

News of Tony had travelled far and wide.  Lots of people wanted Tony to be their friend and it wasn’t long before the cool Eurokids came a-knocking. They were looking for a new leader and they led Tony to believe he could be just the ticket.

Tony was thrilled, as was Gordie with his good friend’s success.  Gordie let it be known that Tony could count on him for his support. Tony felt a very special boy, and thanked his lucky stars that he had a friend like Gordie.

However, Gordie had since made some new friends, Nicky and Angie.  Nicky and Angie weren’t too fond of Tony and let their feelings be known amongst the Eurokids.  They thought Tony was showy and always wanted to be centre of attention.  A little known boy called Rompuy would be a much better leader, they told Gordie.

Gordie, afraid that he wouldn’t be allowed to play with Nicky and Angie, sheepishly agreed and promised that he wouldn’t be Tony’s friend anymore. The Eurokids all hailed their new leader, Rompuy, and celebrated with bratwurst and Belgium beer milkshakes.

Tony, humiliated and badly let down by his friend Gordie, pledged not to play with the Eurokids for the next four years and returned home.

And thus ended the story of the cheeky boy known as Tony Blair.

 

Cricket and Politics – Mix Gently

A contribution from “Wooley”

In the ignoble pantheon of cricketing clichés, surely only ‘catches wins matches’ is lower than ‘sport and politics should not mix’. Of course, they always will and – from the very moment that teams went on to the field bearing the names of England and Australia – they always have.

Cricket needs politics – no sport has suffered any more than cricket from Thatcher’s sale of school playing fields. But politics has rarely seemed in the least bit interested in return. Tony Blair’s much ridiculed ignorance of football history is now generally accepted as a misquotation, but he has no excuse when it comes to cricket – in his speech at the opening ceremony for the 1999 World Cup, he remembered a six being hit off the first ball of the 1975 World Cup final, which must have confused anyone else who remembered no such thing (“still”, as Simon Hughes – commentating for the BBC at the time – pointed out, “it was Tony Blair. You expect him to get his facts wrong.”)

Blair could, of course, be counted on for a ringing denouncement of any foreign dictator going. Yet, in the same month that he was quite content to risk British lives to bring down one such dictatorship in Iraq, he made no attempt to intervene on the matter of whether English sportsmen should go to Zimbabwe, happy to leave the England team (literally) locked in a room deciding between the need to play all of their group games in order to qualify for the next round and the morality of effectively endorsing the corrupt Mugabe regime (their consciences won, while Australia went to Zimbabwe and won the World Cup).

2005 made cricket rather hotter political property – having washed his hands of the team just two years earlier, Blair invited them round to celebrate their Ashes win in his back garden. When then-Culture Secretary Andy Burnham commissioned his independent review of sports broadcasting, he would have seen restoring the Ashes to its ‘crown jewel’ terrestrial television status as the focus for discussion. Containing just one cricketing representative (Angus Fraser, who happens to be a hero of mine) alongside lots of people with no discernable love for the game, this panel has now delivered its verdict – leaving Burnham’s successor Ben Bradshaw to decide whether to endorse a ruling forcing the Ashes to return to terrestrial television.

Make no mistake, the suggestion that the Ashes should be a crown jewel is a populist measure, and (after two home victories in a row) it will be popular. Yet, the selection of these cultural treasures seems entirely arbitrary – this time round; the Ashes are back, the Challenge Cup and the Winter Olympics are dropped, while the Ryder Cup is again ignored.

Cricket fans are entitled to ask why the Government allowed the Ashes to be dropped in the first place, though we should not labour under any assumption that a return to terrestrial television will be a blessing for viewers. Channel 4’s coverage of the 2005 Ashes was a delight, but the credit for that goes entirely to independent production company Sunset and Vine. The overall record of the terrestrial broadcaster was less than impressive.

I’ll let Simon Hughes (who joined test match cricket’s move from the BBC to Channel 4 in 1999) fill you in:

“We palpably failed to turn around Channel 4’s dwindling enthusiasm for Test cricket… with match starting times being brought forward so that they wouldn’t eat into precious evening schedules… (highlights) transmitted so late at night we asked if it was OK to swear during commentary… The commitment to the C&G Trophy had lapsed… (which) definitely contributed to the decline in the competition’s allure.”

Thus can the ECB’s fondness for Sky Sports be easily understood. The keenest cricket fans are equally enamoured as they compare Channel 4’s sad tally of two days of county cricket each season with Sky’s capacity to show us cricket of some variety on almost every day of the week. On top of that, it is simply a fact that Sky’s investment in the sport allowed the England women’s team to arrest a decide of stark decline, becoming world champions in all formats by 2009.

This is not to say that cricket doesn’t have some tricky issues to balance. Exclusivity to Sky resulted in dramatically lower viewing figures in 2009 – evidence that the boom of 2005 was not permanent. Since most cricket coverage is going to remain on Sky, whatever the decision on the Ashes and the ‘crown jewels’, cricket’s future will be determined in no small part by the Government’s broader response to the issues of digital inclusion.

Of greatest danger is that the 2005 Ashes mean that such decisions will be taken on the evidence of the exception, rather than the rule. By any standards, 2005’s games were especially exciting. Watching them on television will be one of my defining cricketing memories as long as there is a game to remember. The fact that the wider nation was actually interested, for once, made it seem slightly more special.

But, as Marcus Berkmann pointed out in his recent book, ‘Ashes To Ashes’, the naked jingoism of the Trafalgar Square piss-up rather spoiled things – “You sort of resented all the Johnny Come Latelies who were out on the street celebrating and who didn’t spend the entire 1990s praying that Steve Waugh would get out, in vain”.

At which point, I come to the other issue that the independent panel has failed to consider – the broader context. The Ashes in 2005 secured astonishingly high audiences, but they did so for a classic series that England narrowly won, in a summer when England’s football team was at an especially low ebb (we might regret the recent defeat to Brazil, but in 2005, we lost to Northern Ireland).

Cricket is unlikely to be so lucky again. The 2009 Ashes were not only much less exciting and played against a much weaker opposition, they also had to compete for an audience with an unbeaten England football qualifying campaign, the second 5-set Wimbledon final in two years, Tom Watson’s age defying tilt at the Open and the second British Formula One world champion in a row. From now on, the Ashes will also be competing against a crowd-pleasing variety of the same sport – Twenty20.

As it happens, even I wasn’t watching as England won the final Ashes test – my friends and I were coming to the end of our own game, alas losing by a whisker on the final ball. Sports clubs (despite the obvious need of society to engage in physical exercise) “remain burdened by their reputations as bastions of male monoculture”, as Gideon Haigh has observed. And yet, my cricket team is considerably more socially diverse and far less inward looking than either my workplace or my chosen political party. Our game will die if we don’t have pitches to play on and nets to practice in, but to suggest that a sport that spread round the globe long before television existed will die unless its more casual followers are allowed to watch it free of charge is tremendously insulting.

If well handled, this debate might do cricket some good – it will certainly force ECB chairman Giles Clark to stop sticking his head in the sand. But, how the sport is watched must be a decision for cricket, and its followers. If Ben Bradshaw believes that he can simply hand over a decision so crucial for those who have cricket for their whole lives (and, yet, fairly inconsiderable for those that do need) to a panel that – as I mentioned earlier – contained just one person with any abiding interest in the game, then he will have demonstrated a fatal flaw in Government policy making.

Lizzie visits her friends

 

Once upon a time there lived a wonderful old woman named Lizzie. Lizzie was a very special woman. She was so special that she owned a whole country. In fact she owned several. She owned Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Belize. She was even Paramount Chief of Fiji, though she puzzled over what that meant.

 

One splendid country was lucky enough to be Lizzie’s absolute favourite. And that was the United Kingdom which she loved with all her heart. She cried for days when a band of hardened cartographers armed with compasses and rulers had thwarted her wish to rename it United Queensland. But she got over it quickly as she loved the place so much.

 

Lizzie was lucky that United Queensland, which she secretly still called it when no one was around, loved her too. She was so popular in her favourite country that she never had to pay for anything. Her happy subjects bought her all sorts of wonderful prezzies to show how much they cared. They decorated her palaces and castles. They bought her a special choo-choo that only she could ride on. They bought her a big boat and a fleet of cars and even a golden horse-drawn carriage. They paid for all her lovely food and drink and nice dresses and jewellery and works of art and trips abroad and all just because they loved her so much. 

 

To repay their generous spirit, Lizzie worked hard for her subjects. She made them well when they were ill. She locked away fiendish criminals so they couldn’t hurt anyone anymore. And she taught children their ABC’s. But sadly Lizzie was getting older, and doing all of that was very difficult for one old lady, even one as special as Lizzie. So she asked some friends to help.

 

These friends formed a Parliament who met for four days a week, twenty-six weeks a year, to help tell lots of teachers and doctors and nurses and policemen to do all the things that Lizzie couldn’t do on her own anymore.

 

And so every year Lizzie would become Queenie for one day on which she would put on a crown and visit the special palace used by her friends. There she would sit on her decorative throne that absolutely was not “just” a bench covered in velvet no matter what that French upstart Napoleon once said. And from her throne she would explain what everyone should be doing to make the bestest country in the whole wide world even betterer.

 

Unfortunately Lizzie’s friends were not as wonderful as her. They started to steal people’s money so that they too would not have to pay for food and drink and cars and homes. Just like their friend Lizzie.

 

When people realised they got angry. Many of Lizzie’s friends quit running the country. Others demanded changes in the law to stop it all happening again. One, a yellow man named Cleggy, even suggested Lizzie should stay away until the whole mess was sorted out.

 

Fortunately Cleggy was not very popular, so Wavey and Grdn Broooon, who could not stand to miss their visit from lovely Queenie, told him to shush his mouth and stay shushed.

 

And so, tomorrow, Lizzie will tell her friends to merge something called a DfID with another thing called the Foreign Office. She will ask them to spend more on health care. Again. She will tell them to be nastier to criminals. Again. And she will tell them not to be naughty any more or she would be very disappointed in them all.