Believe it or not, but I try to be an intellectual man. I use words that are unnecessarily long and complicated words when it non-essential and gratuitous (if you are interested, my favourite words are plethora and, err, gratuitous).
Anyhow, in my mission to try and enhance my intelligence – something that will come in handy with my first exam of the year only days away – I purchased this week’s edition of New Statesman, a centre-left political magazine established many a moon ago by the great Sidney Webb (he was the one who penned Clause IV into the Labour Party’s constitution in 1918*).
One of the articles in this week’s New Statesman was by Martha Gill, about how we see the world through our own political prejudices. In her article she argues that “if your politics veer to the left, you’ll conveniently ignore facts that back the right and avoid places that’ll tell you about them. And vice versa.” Her argument is that to understand how the other half think, one must appreciate how they view the world and gauge empathy. Even if that means reading the Daily Mail. I have always wondered why, for instance, those of the conservative persuasion in this country can be so against the notion that the Labour Party are funded by Trade Unions, who in turn represent thousands of people who work in the many different sectors of British industry.
“Why is he writing about all his democratic socialist views?” I hear you ask, quite rightly too. Well, I have always found that sport tends to offer us metaphors on every feature of life, with politics not being an exception. Whether it is North Korea’s involvement in the 2010 World Cup highlighting their isolation in the world, or the fact that this summer’s Olympic Games are sponsored by McDonald’s shows us the absurdities thrown up by capitalism.
On Sunday afternoon I saw something which blended these two themes of the articles. It happened in Serie A in Italy when Genoa were playing at home to Siena. With the score at 4-0 to Siena, the Genoa “Ultras” halted the match for forty-five minutes in disgust at their team’s performance with smoke-bombs and pitch invasion. It led to a bizarre scenario in which the Ultras – a minority of the Genoa support, it must be said – demanded that the players took off their shirts since they were not, in their eyes, fit to wear the Genoa jersey.
In light of my attempts to gain intellect over the weekend by being a Fabian, could the antics of the Genoa Ultras be a metaphor for the Labour Party’s relationship with the Trade Unions (if you are not of leftist persuasion). Both Labour and Genoa can be accused of underperforming in recent years; Genoa have won the Italian championship nine times in their history (granted, the last time was 1924) and are only a single point off the relegation places in Seria A. Meanwhile, the Labour Party are still recovering from their election loss in 2010. The Ultras at Genoa, albeit a minority of the team’s support, are a loud minority and (as this event showed) can be quite powerful when they act. The same could be said about Trade Unions within the Labour Party. Union (and party) membership have both dwindled significantly in the last couple of decades, yet the Trade Unions still hold a third of the votes in leadership elections within the party, so much so that Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, owes much to the Trade Unions who voted for him.The way the players reacted to the Ultras could be seen as a metaphor for the way Labour bend their backs for the Union vote. I don’t think in any other walk of life, for me at least, I could see a different point of view like that.
It led to a bizarre scenario in which the Ultras – a minority of the Genoa support, it must be said – demanded that the players took off their shirts since they were not, in their eyes, fit to wear the Genoa jersey.
It would be unfair to use the events from Sunday as a footballing metaphor for the Labour Party, because football metaphors exist everywhere in politics: is the Conservatives receiving large donations from Lord Ashcroft really that different from the scenarios at Eastlands or Stamford Bridge? And was David Murray’s recklessness whilst at Rangers that dissimilar from the actions of Fred Goodwin at the Royal Bank of Scotland?
Martha Gill’s article in New Statesman concludes that “only one thing will improve political debate – we need to stop being passionate about politics.” I disagree. Rather, we should just watch more football.
* One of my exams this month is on the history of the Labour Party. I don’t think it shows in this article. Perhaps a little.