Friday, 3 December 2010

Why England Lost the World Cup

“A lifetime of training for just ten seconds” – Jesse Owens

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that” – Bill Shankly

We should have known when no one laughed at Prince William’s joke about his upcoming wedding that it was going to be a long day. Despite this, people up and down the country including a group of freezing cold fans in London watched anxiously for the announcement of the host nation for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. It was a long drawn out process that almost seemed a deliberate attempt to see how many Englishmen’s hearts could be sent into arrhythmia at once. First there was a delay in voting, which made me crassly assume that someone’s check had bounced. Then even though voting was completed there was another half hour delay for which there seemed to be no reason, other than to make it seem like a longer process than ticking a box. By then however, the rumours had already started to circulate.

England had lost. Not just lost, but got completely pounded. Only two voters thought England was the best choice for host, and we have to assume that one of those votes came from our own delegate. Instead it was Russia who was awarded the World Cup, who as I understand is the first Eastern European nation to do so. The second it became clear the England bid was a complete failure, we knew what would be coming next – months of excuses and accusations.

Personally I think David Beckham summed the whole thing up in one perfectly simple sentence – “we didn’t get enough votes.” If only his fellow England 2018 delegates thought of it the same way. Bid Chief Executive Andy Anson insists that it is all the media’s fault, namely the BBC, because it is the reason the voters have given him. No offense to Mr Anson, but this is probably nonsense. Let’s not forget that these are the same voters who he claimed lied to him and said they would be voting for England, so why exactly should we listen now? Given that Sep Blatter entered the room of voters and reminded them of the media attention, it does seem like a pretty easily accessible excuse. Either way Anson cannot launch any kind of vendetta against the BBC, who in scheme of things did the right thing in exposing a corrupt system.

There is of course the old saying that when you point your finger at someone there’s three pointing back at you. What about how we approached the bid? Fifa seem to enjoy the buzz of going into a country that is in some way worse off than the rest of the world, for example in terms of human rights or a third world nation in terms of South Africa. They like taking football to a nation where the World Cup can create an image as an almighty peace bringing force. Russia’s campaign was based around how being host nation would benefit them, while our presentation was based around how it would benefit the rest of the world. Maybe this simply wasn’t what the voters were looking for in a host nation. Same goes for 2022, where the United States lost their bid to Qatar. It is no coincidence that they will be the first ever Middle Eastern nation to host the tournament.

We shouldn’t forget either what happened in the derby match between Aston Villa and Birmingham the previous night. The last thing the bid needed was a top news story about fans invading the pitch and causing violence. Then again, maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe old Becks is right, we just didn’t get enough votes.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Vince shouldn’t abstain... he should vote NO!

“We will: Scrap unfair tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, including those studying part-time, saving them over £10,000 each” – Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010

“You can’t always get what you want...” – Mick Jagger

I suppose it is a testament to how much can be done over such a short space of time. Five days, and the country and its political landscape was changed, for good or worse. Since then the Liberal Democrats have come under fire for pretty much every move the government has made. David Cameron could sneeze and Nick Clegg would get accused of being covered with disease. Nothing though quite compares to the hurricane of abuse from the media and the public over the proposed rise in tuition fees. Instead of hurricane, shit storm would probably be a more apt phrase. The only thing is though, this time we deserve it.

I know people are going to say to me that I should look at the Browne report more carefully and I have done so, and there is no doubt that in many ways it is progressive. Part timers will find life a little easier and people from poorer backgrounds could find they don’t have to pay anything at all once they graduate. The only problem is, for most people the fees are set to rise and that’s not our policy. Our policy is to abolish tuition fees. When we knocked on people’s doors during canvassing at election time, we didn’t say “we have a progressive plan for tuition fees”, we said “You know those tuition fees, consider them gone”.

I’m fully aware we are in a coalition and that we have to compromise, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon party policy just so we don’t upset our partners. If we turned the tables hypothetically for a moment – if the proposal was to abolish tuition fees and we were in this coalition, would the Tories be considering voting yes or abstaining? I think not, I think they would vote no – because that is not what their party believes in. Take AV as another example. The Tories are set to launch their NO campaign while we have our YES campaign. The Tories aren’t joining us on AV, so why should we join them on tuition fees? I really hope it’s not because we are easily convinced.

I’ll say again that there are a few upsides to these proposals, but the bottom line is that this is not what we stand for or is even close to our policy. If this was a Labour government I have no doubt they would be doing the exact same thing, which is why whenever they complain about us selling out I get closer to anger induced arrhythmia. Listening to them complain about the VAT rise makes me want to hit them in head with Alistair Darling. If this was an outright Conservative government I think things would be a hell of a lot worse – it wouldn’t have surprised me if the cap on tuition fees would have been removed altogether.

No doubt some of these proposals are good, but I agree with our MP for Withington John Leech, our Party President Tim Farron and many other MPs that the Lib Dems should stand by their campaign promise and vote NO. Vote YES and the riots will get worse, ABSTAIN and it will look like we’re running away, but vote NO and watch those student voters come back. I promise you.

“...But if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.”

The Hell of it All

“I don’t ask what’s the point, questions like that will kill ya.” – Denny Crane, Boston Legal

“I love life because what more is there” – Anthony Hopkins

“Upset the established order [...] everything will become chaos. You know the thing about chaos? It’s fair" – The Joker, The Dark Knight

Why are we here? A question that depending on your state of mind can cause quite a lot of damage. Even more pragmatic still – what’s the point? These questions cross many people’s minds, usually just before they enter a mid-life crisis. The problem is I’m only nineteen and I have now asked myself both of these within a matter of minutes last week.

This could mean one of three things. One: I’m somehow inferior to the rest of the human race (highly likely) and my body is only engineered to last until I’m forty. Two: It was one of those life changing moments when you start to appreciate what you have and look forward to the future. Or three: I need a check-up from the neck up. I’m pretty sure it’s number two, but three definitely comes into it.

I started asking myself these questions when I was helping print a magazine I write for called Living Memories. It is a local history magazine that sells quite well considering the size of the town I live in. I enjoy doing it don’t get me wrong, but on this occasion I had to help put all the pages, one to thirty, in order by hand until all nine hundred copies were done. It took two very long days in a tiny damp room that was even colder than being outside. At 4 o’clock that afternoon, when it was going dark outside and I’m covered in paper cuts and there is still no end in sight, those two questions I mentioned at the beginning popped into my head.

It was then I decided that things would be different. I’m well known for having an opinion that isn’t always widely shared, but I though seeing as I want to become a writer I would find a way to get my opinion out there. I am a student after all, so this will probably be my only chance to be young, opinionated and foolish. Hence how this blog has come about, along with many other promises I have made to myself. For a start I would like to get out a little more, changing my life from being in the same situation ten years from now to being unaware where I’m going to be ten minutes from now. I know that’s a slight exaggeration but you understand what I mean. I intend to make my final two years at university worth it, seeing as I will have it easier than newer students financially and because tax payer’s money is tied up in my grants and fees. Don’t get me to point out where because I really don’t know – they give me money and I don’t ask questions. I’d like my chosen career as a writer to be well on its way by next year. This blog is apparently good writing exercise so it’s all good.

So anyway, this was the moment I started to appreciate life just a little more. Nothing much to it but there you go. Now, hopefully instead of dying of old age or some debilitating disease, I will get taken out in a hail gunfire, or maybe stabbed by an angry girlfriend, or maybe I’ll jump out of a plane and my shoot won’t open. Well if someone is willing to blow me away with bullets, stab me or sabotage my parachute, then I must be doing something right.