Politicians do love their Olympic Games. They make them feel so important. There are people to be expelled from their home, blameless businesses to be relocated into bankruptcy, photogenic new sports stadia and shiny new transport links to be constructed, opening ceremonies and firework displays to be arranged, all at vast public expense, and involving vast opportunities for grandiose displays of political self-importance, to say nothing of more private sorts of gain.
Nevertheless, the following story about the mutual impact of the Olympics and politics takes this natural affinity to a whole new depth of creepiness. I am rather surprised that David Carr has not beat me to noticing it. I guess (see immediately below) he has other worries on his mind:
London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, today called for his term in office to be extended if the capital succeeds in its Olympic bid.
Mr Livingstone was speaking after an intense hour-long grilling by Conservative London delegates at the Tory party conference in Bournemouth.
Speaking of his hopes for a successful Olympic bid following forceful lobbying by a team spearheaded by the Olympic gold medallist and ex-Tory MP Sebastian Coe, Mr Livingstone said that if London won, the mayoral term would need to be extended by a year to ensure that preparations for the games were not disrupted.
I know that it is not received opinion here to be any sort of admirer of democracy, but I actually do rather admire it, basically because it is so vastly preferable to civil war as a method of swabbing out one bucketload of politicians who have become frightful beyond all redemption, and squirting in another lot who are not yet quite so terminally disgusting. And I believe that it has other benefits, many of them quite subtle, and unexpectedly non-collectivist, despite the fact that at the heart of democracy lies the brutal and morally repulsive idea of majorities – more precisely their elected representatives – being able to do whatever they please.
See for instance this New York Times article, which argues that democracy, far from depending on economic development, is actually the way to get economic development. For reasons I hope Real Soon Now to be writing about here, I am greatly attracted by this hypothesis, despite the fact that, in terms of the stark principles involved, democracy is just the latest of many negations of the idea of individual liberty.
But if democratic politics is to work, even by its own crude standards, one of the most basic rules is that the rule for when the next election is to be held must be stuck to. Postponing an election, for whatever reason, is a step down a very slippery slope indeed, at the bottom of which lies naked tyranny.
Has any elected politician in modern Britain ever made a suggestion like this before? Except during a major war? If any has, I missed it.