Former England Captain Gary Neville called out the Prime Minister on TV today. But will anything change?
In Parliament today, the Home Secretary was challenged by her Labour Shadow, Nick Thomas-Symonds in the Commons here, and also by the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, former Home Office Minister Yvette Cooper here. The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party accused both the Prime Minister & Home Secretary of hypocrisy.
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[Updated to add]
England defender Tyrone Mings, who was part of the Euro2020 Squad, posted a direct response to the Home Secretary above. Lewis Goodall of BBC Newsnight confirmed the Home Office has declined to respond.
We have been here before
Above – from Euro 2012 in The Guardian Here.
It feels like little has changed since then – if anything it has gotten worse – especially since the EU Referendum.
Gareth Southgate and the England Men’s football team have changed the mood of the country – along with the England Women’s football team.
A number of past and present women international footballers were routinely present as on-screen analysts – often more than matching the analysis than their male counterparts.
Mr Wright also spoke out against online abuse hurled at the women analysts, reminding everyone that as a football manager, Ms Hayes has passed a series of examinations and qualifications – you can see how detailed the mandatory UEFA Pro Licence is here.
Remember it was only a decade ago that Richard Keys and Andy Gray, the long-time duo at Sky Sports, were taken off air by Sky Executives after their behaviour off camera became public. Incredible to think that this sort of thing was happening ever so recently.
Yet in the early 1990s when Sky outbid ITV for the exclusive rights to broadcast live football matches in a move that transformed the TV broadcasting market in the UK, and the presentation and analysis moved into a new era with boards, diagrams, graphics etc – a step on from the 1980s.
How would England have performed if the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and their political bedfellows had been fully supportive of England players taking the knee?
As James O’Brien on LBC remarked, if politicians spent more time and effort being better at politics and delivering policies that dealt with society’s problems, it wouldn’t fall on footballers and the like to pick up the pieces.
The incessant headlines of hatred coming from the national print press over the decades has continued to be mentally exhausting and mind-numbing – I dread to think what the mental health impact must be for those actually on the receiving end of such headlines over an extended period of time.
Had England won, what would have been different?
Would it have enabled politicians and media talking heads supporting the Government to have claimed that the country was united behind a winning England? Quite possibly. Everyone wants to be associated with the winners – and not as people jumping on a bandwagon, but those who were there ‘from the start’. They might have pointed at the much-criticised Sewell Report and said ‘Look! The report is correct!’
Ironically, the very abuse that the England squad were protesting against was revealed in all its grim reality both before and after the match.
For all of the platitudes from political and media worlds about how the ‘thugs’ are ‘not real fans’ or ‘not representative’ of the rest of the country’, what if they are not correct? For all of the statements around naming and shaming, it doesn’t sound like that has had much impact. After all, the number of ministers who have not resigned despite the public shaming of their actions and behaviours – even in the face of clear breaches of the Ministerial Code, is hardly providing much of a good example. As Mr Neville said in his interview on TV, the example must be set from the top.
The dystopian scenes at Leicester Square in Central London made for grim viewing. Such a contrast from the normally diverse crowds of tourists, workers, and people going about their day. I used to live only a few stops down the Piccadilly Line from Leicester Square tube station. The lack of diversity of the crowd was one of the things that struck me – as well as the sea of litter, the grey clouds, and pouring rain. It looked like the worst party ever. And yet this is supposed to be one of the most glamorous spots in the country, the site of movie premieres and the like.
Mr Southgate demonstrating leadership in a difficult situation
I listened to the closing stages on the radio – for some reason watching it on TV was triggering panic symptoms which medication could only do so much. I also listened to the interviews & coverage for the next 90 minutes after the penalties were over. One of the things Mr Southgate has made clear with players he selects is that they are all leaders by virtue of their place in the squad.
In terms of the players that finished the match, you had the captains of Liverpool (Henderson), Manchester United (Harry Maguire) and Tottenham Hotspurs (I could have said L’pool, ManU, & Spurs but I’m doing this longform) on the pitch – which is what you want in a game of this magnitude. Both the first two, who put away their penalties, were the ones to do radio interviews straight after, along with the Manager. Not easy when nearly half the country was watching the match. (31million – which is unheard of in a multi-channel era).
When questions were asked about who took penalties and why, Mr Southgate made it very clear that the final decision rested with him, and that he is the one who should be held accountable, not the players. This was consistent in the responses the players who did not take penalties gave when they were publicly questioned in the media – see the fans’ favourite Jack Grealish below.
The tweet from Mr Grealish showed that he volunteered to take a penalty, and that the decision on the first five was Mr Southgate’s – one that he supported. This was further backed up by the statement from England Captain Harry Kane: “We win together, we lose together”.
This is also a reminder of the Convention of Collective Responsibility of Government – something that was repeatedly discarded by the previous Prime Minister Theresa May – to the detriment of the institutions of state and of democracy generally. And with catastrophic consequences.
Political parties need broad, diverse memberships if they are to be representative of the country they want to govern. Parliamentary candidates must also come from a variety of backgrounds, professions and life experiences, so that those who become MPs and ultimately ministers can bring all of that to the decision-making table. That Mrs May’s Government was unable to reconcile that diversity with her Brexit policies gave a huge incentive to the current Prime Minister to undertake a mass political purge of his ranks of back-benchers (which he carried out to devastating effect), removing most of the independent thinkers and those outside his circle, replacing them with supporters and confidants, irrespective of their ability. The resulting general election which only the political leaders of the time can explain why they agreed to it, gave Johnson a huge majority to do what he liked – something only curtailed by having to respond to the biggest global pandemic since the end of the First World War.
Can I see anything changing from the national politicians in the short term?
The debates in Parliament today explain why – including the 2nd reading of the controversial Higher Education Bill which is a continuation of the Government’s culture wars on institutions and sectors they don’t like. Furthermore, when you consider chants like this were happening in Parliament Square in 2019, serious action by Government means the Prime Minister going after people who elected him into high office. It means print press proprietors going after the people who buy their newspapers or click on their clickbait links. I simply do not see the calibre of politicians in Parliament collectively able to drive that change.
Which means up to three years and five months before the next general election before there is any chance of that major policy change happening. And while the progressive parties in opposition remain fragmented and unable to work together, that chance of major policy changes remains small. That’s not to say you’d get a like-for-like result as modelled here, individual constituencies are more nuanced than that. But the lead has to come from the tops of political parties given how they are structured. At the moment I see very little reason to be hopeful that they can unite in the way their opponents on the political right of politics managed to do so to deliver the UK’s exit from the EU, despite the massive costs which we are now finding out what they are the hard way.
It’s worth noting though that the longer politicians take to make that change, the more opposition they will come up against – especially from younger generations, and also other sectors of society and the economy, not least those hit hard by Government policies. Such as music – in this example, popular music. Very popular indeed.
…this performance by LittleMix in Manchester at the One Love Concert being particularly relevant.