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The strange Tory silence on the UK Olympics

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.

15 comments to The strange Tory silence on the UK Olympics

  • Midwesterner

    Johnathan, I think more likely their plan (wish?) is to precide over the olympics from No.10 and get a lot of milage out of them.

    As for “invest”, no problem. We can now have Perry finding turkeys to be ‘customers’ for his shotgun and then he can ‘invest’ some lead shot in them. Perfectly understandable.

  • manuel II paleologos

    Besides, the only real alternatives are:
    - to come up with a huge bold plan to cut it down to size, cut out all the daft “sports” (about 75% of them) and run it properly
    - to hand the whole shebang over to the French

    I suspect the politics of the former are too complex, and the latter isn’t something a Tory government would normally contemplate.

  • I think the Torys are right, in a way, to keep well out.

    If they carp on, Labour will say they pulled it down. It also does not play well.

    I think most people would be in favour of a well run, focused, efficient and clean Olympics but detest the idea of a profligate jobs-for-me-mates corrupt late shoddy embarassing affair that is highly likely under this administration.

    Jowells always pulls out the “people want the Olympics” and “it will be good for x” etc etc attacking those criticising as if they are always against the entire concept, totally set on ignoring the actual reason for complaint – HOW it will be done.

    Same mantra from Hewitt – attacking those pointing out flaws in the NHS as if they are attacking the staff and not the way the staff are used or resources allocated. (an excellent example now exists on youtube – Patricia even changes her story mid answer when she is found out to be, frankly, so close to lying that you could not fit a cigarette paper between her and a liar).

  • To be honest Jon I can’t think of any bloggers of note that are for the giant carbunkle that is the 2012 Olympics.

    Of course the Tories showing cowardice on an important subject is nothing new now is it?

  • Jacob

    while the cost of the Games could run above 10 billion pounds

    That might be true, but is misleading. These are the costs, but there is also income. The question is – what will be the balance. The Americans, handing the LA games to a private manager, managed to make a profit.
    While it would be unreasonable to expect that to happen in London, the loss won’t be 10 billion.

    The games are popular, and are fun. Give the people circuses and make them happy – the Romans did it already.
    Let there be no worse abuses by governments than the olympic games.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Give the people circuses and make them happy – the Romans did it already.

    Jacob, I assume you are being ironic.

    You say that the Games will not cost us more than 10 bn and make money, or at least partly cover the massive bill. Wow, thanks a lot Jacob, that makes me feel so much better.

    This is what happens when states, backed by temporary majorities, fall prey to the charms of looting money from one bit of the populace in order to supposedly enrich another part, and then try to convince us all that we have had a great deal. “Bread and circuses”, my arse.

    At least when the USA spent billions on the race to the Moon, there was a certain grandeur in all that science stuff, as the late Ayn Rand wrote. But the Olympics? Please. Even Jacob concedes it could be run privately. Well, let it be run privately now.

  • James

    I must admit I always thought that the reason Coe was for the Olympic Games was because he was not so much a politician as a sportsman who’d entered politics, and then left it to front the Olympic Bid.

    And that the reasons the Conservatives backed/kept silent (deleted according to view) on the Games was that “our man” was running them. Its hard as the Conservative Party to be against a bid when a Tory Peer is in charge. Tends to look a little inconsistent.

    As for what they should do now, well, thats another story.

  • For the Sydney Olympics, a conservative state government (Sydney has no city government) made the bid. Between winning and holding the games, a change of government occurred and a labor government did most of the organising, and all of the basking in the glory at taxpayers expense when the games came around. (We are still waiting for the next conservative government, at which point we will presumably find out how much it all cost).

    In London there is a very real chance that the reverse will happen – Labour governments (either at national or London level) being in power when the games were won and Tory governments when the games are held. As nobody in the Tory party would have the guts to give up the Olympics after having won them (and in truth they probably don’t really want to) they are being relatively quiet now as they know that there is a real chance that they will be organising the games and basking in the glory at taxpayers expense in 2012. They are probably even looking forward to it. Therefore they are not being too critical of the games proposal now.

  • anyonebutblair

    The Tory strategy is low-polititcs but is a win-win frankly.
    - Keep mum and avoid any Labour accusations of pulling-down, blocking or damaging the games…but get accused by bloggers of cowerdice given the epic waste of money the games represent (wasing money is Labour’s core competence)
    - Tories get elected in 08/09 the games are a success in 2012 and then bask in the adulation of the “Tory” Olympics led by a tory peer…or the games are a disaster, so blame labour after all Labour had years to get it right and the Tories ony had a couple.
    - Tories lose in 08/09, so blame Labour for a huge waste of cash

    Either way epic sums of cash wasted.

  • Understood

    The Olympic Games is loved by Britain’s liberal politicians not simply because it provides them with an opportunity to create supposed beneficence, to write supposed heroics upon the pages of history (at no expense to themselves, let it be said). No, the attraction is that “we the people” will, by our cheering on of athletes of all three sexes, five creeds and every colour, impart the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to their creation … Nu-London, the future Nu-Britain, Equalityville, the Brown European Man.

    Government is very like you guys. It needs love, too. And it is incompetent at understanding the Nature and the world in general.

  • Government is very like you guys. It needs love, too. And it is incompetent at understanding the Nature and the world in general.

    By which ‘Understood’ means “you Samizdatistas are not determinist racists like me”. I understand the world, and you, just fine.

  • “…and Tory governments when the games are held.”

    Kindly refrain from using such foul and offensive language on this Blog!!

  • Paul Marks

    Only ten billion Pounds.

    “A billion here and billion there – and soon we are talking real money”. If the Conservatives do not care about this ten billion down the drain they will not care about preventing any other spending.

    A politial party (in this case the Conservatives) who ignore all the advance warnings that the games would be a money pit can not turn round and say “it was all the Labour governments fault”.

    Oh they can SAY that – but then the Labour people can say “you supported the bid, indeed your man Coe was in charge of it”.

    Of course Mr Cameron does attack the government over some things. Only yesterday he attacked the government (at Prime Minister’s Question Time) – he attacked the govenrment for not spending enough taxpayers money on the National Health Service.

    I heard David Cameron (for once I watched the whole half hour) – three questions about “cuts”. The other three questions were made up of personal abuse directed at Mr Brown and Mr Blair (nothing on their policies).

    There were a couple of good questions from Conservative M.P.s – but they were not the sort of Conservative M.P. that Mr Cameron would ever give a position to.

  • Paul Marks

    On this skin colour stuff.

    At least in the United States the sound of someone’s voice (oddly enough to a great extent a matter of choice) and the words they choose to use seem to be a better guide to their attitudes and opinions.

    Even with people who have come over from Mexico as adults (and, therefore, have Mexican accents) it is still easy to tell who is American (in feeling) by the words they use and how they use them.

    Skin colour is not very useful. After all it draws no distinction between a black Fox News presenter and Jessie Jackson.

    As for “brown” – most people (other than black people) go brown if exposed to an American summer. This is why the Hollywood indian term “pale face” is phony. In the bright sun of, for example, outdoor Arizonia no one was “pale”.

    The correct term for someone of European descent (if any slang can be correct) would translate (from various indian languages) as “hair mouth” – comming from the (to many indians) disgusting amount of facial hair that people of European descent had.

  • Paul Marks

    A third comment?

    Well I have just remembered a point someone made above.

    We can not let the French have the games (or something like that), why not?

    At least they would not have to build a load of new things. I never understood why the “judges” went for some pictures on a computer screen (the British bid) over real buildings (the French bid) in the first place.

    At least (I thought) this wildly expensive and endlessly delayed new Wembley stadium will be useful for the games (although the old one was good enough for the 1948 games) – but (no) another new stadium is to be built.

    Give France the games – if she will still accept them.