13 Aug 2012

Is any of us fit to pick up the Olympic baton?

When Mrs Thatcher was prime minister, the Conservative party boasted over five million members. Today it has less that a quarter of a million.

The story is the same with Labour. Indeed the total number of members of ALL political parties in Britain today combined, is probably little more that half a million.It is a figure far outstripped by the millions who belong to the National Trust or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Party politics is not the national lifeblood that some politicians think it still to be.

In the aftermath of the Olympics, the discernable spirit in the country is one of pulling together rather than finding grounds upon which to disagree.

When we have seen excellence in Kenya’s David Rudisha winning gold in the 800 metres we have revelled, in it, not resented it – likewise with Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and so many more.

The staging of, and Team GB’s excellence in the Olympics were a consequence of Major, Blair, Brown, and Cameron ministers pulling together, handing the baton seamlessly one to another.

But in truth it was much, much more than that, the London Olympics were built on trust; trust in engineers like Sir John Armitt who led the building of the Channel Tunnel rail link and subsequently led the Olympic delivery team.

He was joined by people like Lord Coe and many more who were beyond active party political trench warfare.

MPs are blessed not to be in session upon the day after the Olympic Games have ended.

Even the very fabric of the House of Commons – arranged as it is, to keep ‘warring factions’ a sword-and-a-half apart across the aisle in front of the Speaker’s Chair – is designed to attract political abuse rather than inter party co-operation. We shall not have to wait long to witness that farmyard bickering.

 And yet, as I hinted in my last Snowblog, I am not alone in detecting a yearning to turn the extraordinary Olympic achievement into an engine for pulling together to deliver Olympic scale achievements with and for the wider Team GB, ourselves no less.

It is hard to see how the political classes will manage to adapt their ways. Indeed the modest reforms attempted by the coalition government have fallen apart even as the athletes trained for and delivered the produce of their own teamwork.

It may prove even harder for the media to pick up the baton of positive thinking and pull together. Our trade is division and doubt, not trust and triumph.

We have seen in the past two weeks some of the most positive newsprint ever published in the UK. Our job is not merely to report but to question – question direction, cash, responsibility, delivery.

But there are ways and ways of questioning. Even at the Olympic level there will be many media folk who will blanche at some of what they wrote in the build up to the games.

Politicians, bankers, journalists have all been through the valley of the shadow of sleaze, criminality, and breezy dishonesty of late. We all have much to make up for.

Dare we trust ourselves to look for the good in each of us and build upon it? And can we do it without necessarily remaining vigilant over the bad within us?

Part of that bad is our cynicism and scepticism. Perhaps we should all take more exercise and se where it takes us; clear our lungs; cleanse our thoughts, and do what the Olympic builders and athletes did, go for the most extreme best we can possibly achieve.

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