Monday, 26 September 2011
'FootBalls' and why Alec Douglas-Home never dressed in rubber
There is a story, possibly apocryphal, of the legendary cricketer W.G. Grace being bowled for a duck by a brash young upstart at a show match at a minor public school. As a stunned silence fell across the ground, the great man put an arm around the fresh whipper snapper and whispered: 'Young man, you see that crowd? They didn't come here to see you throw balls.'
The sight of Mr Balls on a 'soccer pitch' is part of an unfortunate trend in British politics whereby cabinet and shadow cabinet alike feel duty bound to make asses of themselves in the sporting arena. It has long been the case that anyone wishing to reach the front bench must parade themselves at a football pavilion, feigning interest in whichever team their 'spin doctors' have advised them to support. With the exception of our Prime Minister who has been a keen 'footy' fan since his days at the old alma mater, the spectacle is rarely edifying.
One can hardly imagine the great Statesmen (and woman) of our country's illustrious past, lowering themselves to the bear pit of the 'terraces'. Try for one moment to conjure up a mental image of Lord Palmerston playing 'table tennis' or Gladstone partaking in a game of 'extreme frisbee' or Lady Thatcher playing netball, or Alec Douglas-Home, dressed in rubber, engaging in a spot of 'water sports'. These men (and woman) knew that the British public did not give two figs in a pie-crust as to whether or not they could explain the off-side rule, all they want and ever wanted is good, sound leadership.
It is a great pity that Grace is not around today; were he, one can imagine him putting his arm around the sweaty shoulders of the robust shadow chancellor and whispering: "Young man, you see that electorate? They didn't come here to see you kick - Balls."