Rio Review

Permanent Secretary     'Minister, may I have a word?'

Minister for Culture, Media & Sport 'Yes, what is it now?'

PS     'Well Minister, terrific news. Our athletes have blown the lights out. They've only gone and won more medals than they did in London. 66 in fact, including 27 golds.'

Minister    'They've gone and done bloody what? How in the blazes did that happen? It's the last thing I need. We'll have to redo the whole honours list. They'll want a bloody silly parade and drinks at No 10 and you can bet my tickets for the Six Nations they'll be crying for more money the moment they get back. Who's going to tell the luvvies their grants are going to be slashed to pay for more trampolining? Selfish sods. Don't they realise they're supposed to be plucky losers up against the drug fuelled might of East Germany and industrialised American athlete factories?. They're not supposed to win. Who in the flying fxck decided to change that script? I knew I should have stayed at Agriculture; teas with the WI, the odd shoot and make up an argument with Brussels if things were going astray. I don't need this, I absolutely don't.'

PS     'Quite Minister. Shall we look at the diary and see how you are fixed for the reception?'

As the Rio Olympics draw to a close we can reflect on what has been a reasonable showing from the British cohort and while doing so note what has become the new national sport, Having A Go At John Inverdale. I'm not quite sure what the origins of this new game are but with the current score of Twitterati 341,000 to John Inverdale 0 I think it's time to shore up his defence. I don't particularly care if he tweaked a few oversensitive princesses by making a couple of honest errors while live on television. He is a good guy, has long been an enthusiastic supporter of charitable works, (especially sports related endeavours such as CRY), and is a commentator who I at least, am happy to listen to. There is nothing wrong with being grounded and unassuming rather than over the top and emotional. Certainly, I would rather have a pint with Inverdale than I would Queen Clare and therein I suspect, lies the problem. 

While Rio has been memorable for many individual sportsmen, teams and their respective families and fans there has yet been, no 'one big thing,' that will stay in the memory for me. Perhaps that is a good thing for often the 'big things,' are bad things as with Munich or some incident of cheating or other. Yet, there have been moments in the Olympics that will honestly live forever, (or live forever honestly). 

Dick Fosbury; the man who changed the history of high jump

I'm thinking especially of that moment 48 years ago when a young man walked into the arena in Mexico City and turned a sport on it's head. I was a young boy but the day after we saw the Fosbury Flop for the first time it was all anyone, from kids up, could talk about. It was a remarkable moment and he was a remarkable man. I wonder how many kids ended up in A&E in the weeks following as we all tried to emulate the new technique?

Am I Alone?

Am I alone in feeling increasingly uneasy about the growing jingoistic in-your-face celebrations following each medal success in the Olympics? Without wishing to detract from the efforts of dedicated individual sportsmen and teams, the absence of humility and magnanimity in victory from our media, led by guess who on the box, is becoming, quite frankly, somewhat embarrassing.  We don't usually win so much, so often. It is something we're not used to and we are collectively in danger of being seen as bad sports by the rest of the sporting world. After all, it is clear that we have out-spent many rivals to get to this position and there is a valid debate looming about value. That is, is it fair and reasonable to spend an average of something in the ball park of £5m from Lottery funding for each medal when we have tens of thousands of children who have no access to sport and toddlers with no access to green space and simple swing parks?

Whatever the result of that debate, it is time everyone dialled the emotion back a bit. The Dianaisation of every event in this country is quite frankly, becoming tedious and dull. It is not the British way and we're not making any friends believing or acting otherwise.

It's Open!

 

At last, the Hindhead Tunnel is open. It genuinely will make a positive difference locally and it has to be said, against all expectations, the tunnel guys have delivered a great project with minimal disruption given it's size. 

I'm told it wouldn't have happened were it not for the Olympics........... every cloud then.. and the 10-15% uplift in property prices south of Hindhead won't harm us either.

 

Bloody Trains Rant

Coalition Transport Spending Plan

I don't believe for a moment that any of us war weary infantry in the trenches are in the least bit surprised in the supposed revelation that Vince Cable believes that he could bring down the coalition at any time of his choosing. The only surprise is that Vince Cable might think that any of us care in the least what he says. We're all just too familiar with the massive egos and arrogance of these people to be surprised which is not news given one of the people who has least earned the right to ego and arrogance is Mr Cable. Greatness doesn't come from just regurgitating the last thing you read on the internet.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, there is indeed no limit to the ego of all these people for they all leave humility at the front door of Westminster the moment they walk inside. The way they like to project their largesse and public spirit is, somewhat tragically for the long suffering taxpayer, by embarking on huge vanity projects at our expense. That we neither need not want them is irrelevant as they seek to concrete themselves in the public conciousness Oh you will lads, but for the wrong reasons.

£800m on the Millennium Dome would be a good place to start in the lesson, "How not to do it," but Westminster missed that and hurtled on to drive a coach and horses through what taxpayers wanted by throwing what will end up costing £20bn to keep Lord bloody Coe quiet on the Olympics. £20bn? Let's just stop for a moment and question this insanity. Yesterday a great big PR fuss was made of the floodlights being switched on and £65m being given to sport for schools. Here's a reality check - for £20 bn we could give every secondary school a top class gymnasium and small stadium. In fact, all our schools could be equipped just like those cutsy American High schools you see in the movies. Instead, we're spending an absolute bloody fortune on a bunch a minority sports that no one ever pays to watch. The utter waste is criminal and the servitude to the IOC is demeaning to every Briton that has ever drawn breath. The Russians got the World Cup; let's just give them the Olympic fools errand too, in fact, we should pay them to take it and retain some dignity and cash flow.

But political vanity projects are the order of the day for every administration and so the Coalition have theirs....... fast trains to bloody Birmingham. Well, that's a good way to spend £34bn isn't it?

Here's a little bit of context for you from our friends at Think Defence; despite all the drum beating about the Military Covenant, this is what the Coalition have achieved to date,

  • Reducing the planned purchase of 22 Chinooks to 12
  • Cancelling Nimrod MRA4
  • Reducing armour and artillery
  • Reducing surface vessels
  • Reducing Tornado
  • Withdrawn Harrier GR9′s
  • Withdrawing Sentinel
  • Slashing allowances and expenses
  • Setting up the armed forces for a post Afghanistan change in terms and conditions of service
  • Implementing a 2 year pay freeze
  • Reducing pensions
  • Reducing service personnel by 17,000
  • Reducing the MoD Civil Service by 25,000 which will likely result in more work for service personnel

Moving swiftly back to the £34bn we're about to hose on getting to Birmingham marginally more quickly than we already do, these people, well the Government I guess, (they could be aliens for all the familiarity they demonstrate to the lives of taxpayers), need a reality check. Obviously, I'd like the reality check to be a swift kick up the rear but instead I'll make this as simple as I can,

"We don't want to travel at 250mph, we simply want to travel at reasonable cost and with a reliable service."

My season ticket costs £5256, plus £800 a year to park my car at the station; that's after tax. Given we subsidise South West Trains anyway,  the true cost to the traveller can only be guessed at. I won't bang on about the wanton exploitation of the travelling public by South West Trains because I've talked before about them stripping out lavatories on trains to cram in more seats, about using small suburban trains for inter city services and that rather special couldn't give a damn attitude to snow clearing on their premises.

The point here, is that the Coalition should stow their egos and focus on just what would help the travelling public and the workforce and it isn't fast trains to Birmingham. Indeed, if I were a betting man I can almost guarantee that it will end up costing £50bn and the rest of us will enjoy fare increases to compensate for their utter stupidity. Muppets.

 As a postscript, I found this comment on a post on Andrew Gilligans blog interesting and exactly the sort of thing the government should be making their business to explore. They won't, it doesn't massage the ego enough and strangely, I can't now find the comment on the blog; here it is anyway:

"My favourite suggestion that went nowhere, was from a South-West Trains driver who had noticed that if you were to build a mile-long spur from a point a mile south-west of Feltham mainline BR station up between the Bedfont Road and the Primary school and past the Clockhouse Roundabout into Terminal 4, you could have a very cheap Heathrow Express, going into the surplus international-spec Eurostar platforms at Waterloo once the cross-channel trains started going into St. Pancras."

Stand up whoever you are and find that bloody driver; we can't afford to let original thinking like that fall by the wayside.