As regulars of this site will know, even the most ardent sports fans on this blog – Brian Micklethwait, Michael Jennings and yours truly – despise the Olympic Games. Or, more exactly, we despise how the Games in the UK are funded out of taxes, and despise the crooks, cretins and gullible fools who imagine that the benighted taxpayers of Britain are making some sort of “investment” by paying for the Games. The other evening, flicking through the channels, I saw Sebastian Coe, now a peer and a former Tory MP, go on about what a smashing “investment” the Games respresented, as if he was talking about a punt on the Nasdaq or a purchase of BMW bonds. That an alleged Tory should use the word “investment” to talk about something that could not stand up on commercial grounds and requires the looting powers of the state to function is depressing evidence of the calibre of Tories today. For all their faults, former Chancellors Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe or even Norman Lamont never insulted our intelligence by abusing the English language in this way.
It is possible that the Conservatives have made the crude calculation that the blasted Games, which surge in cost all the time, are going to happen anyway, will be an expensive mess, and the best thing to do is to make supportive noises, not appear to be grouchy, and pin any blame for cockups on the Labour government. From a narrow tactical angle, this is possibly sensible. There are some battles not worth fighting; while the cost of the Games could run above 10 billion pounds, the overalll size of UK public spending is several multiples of that and the Tories or any decent opposition must focus its attention on that. Although a huge figure, the cost of the Games represents a rounding error compared to the total public spending burden. Even so, it would be good to see the Tories flaying the government over the fiasco that this event threatens to become. Over at the Social Affairs Unit blog, the writer Jeremy Black makes some good points on what this government’s opponents should be doing.
Oh well, at least writing about this takes my mind off Ipswich Town FC’s miserable footballing year and England’s loss of the Ashes. Sigh.