As I See It
Labour on a hiding; lost legacy of the Games
Labour has learned nothing from its election defeat
It just gets worse for the Labour Party. Beaten badly in the General Election and forced into the humiliating sacrifice of its leaders north and south of the border, it could really do with some good news.
If anyone thought its triple election winner Tony Blair would help they were quickly disabused of the fact. Mr Blair stepped into the debate over the future of the UK leader believing he was guiding his party away from a lurch back to the left. He was right in saying Mr Corbyn would be the preferred candidate for the Tories. Unfortunately, his comments have antagonised his opponents within the party, and by reopening old wounds he leaves Labour in danger of bleeding to death.
It was supposed to use its unpopularity with the voters to rebuild itself as a new party of the centre, filling a gap left by the equally disastrous demise of the LibDems. In this new model Labour party, leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn was meant to be the fringe no-hoper, a dinosaur representing all that Blairism rejected in the mid-90s. His emergence in a poll of Labour supporters as the leading candidate to succeed Ed Miliband has not only left his supposedly more favoured rivals struggling to stay the distance, it has also confounded the pundits.
Mr Blair argued that the party had to adapt to the culture of change. By that he meant it was no good trying to recreate the past, even the Labour winning days of 1997 and 2005. Mr Corbyn’s plan would take it back to the statist policies of much earlier times and which were fatally flawed during Michael Foot’s leadership in the 1980s. Those desperately difficult times for Labour saw it kept out of power for 18 years were thought to be behind it.
This new debate shows it remains in search of a purpose. It has learned nothing from its election defeat. I argued in a pre-election column for Labour to rebuild via mergers with bits of the other centrist parties on shared values. Some other columnists now seem to be thinking along the same lines. Certainly in Scotland it is the only way it can expect to avoid anything other than a calamitous result next summer, especially if the party in London takes a wrong road.
Back in April 2011, during a dinner to mark Lloyds’ sponsorship of the forthcoming London Olympics I rather upset the excitable marketing woman presenting her case by questioning her claims about the sporting legacy the Games would leave.
In particular, she seemed to think we would all be running, jumping and otherwise leaping about as a post-Games enthusiasm for sport gripped the nation.
It was never going to be. And so it turned out. The Olympic stadium is being turned into what we like doing most: watching football.
Glasgow is now going through similar hand-wringing over the Commonwealth Games which was expected to help create a great sporting nation.
To be fair, there are some fabulous new facilities, including the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, all built at a cost of some £300m. Indeed, it was not so much a cost as an investment – in physical infrastructure and creating jobs. The athletes village has improved the housing stock. The Games actually came in under budget, a medal-winning feat in itself. According to a new report the economic benefit is irrefutable.
But any change in sporting activity and involvement has been marginal. Ask the members of any club if they have seen any surge in new subscriptions. Golf clubs are closing or struggling.
It is easy to blame the politicians for this, but they must shoulder some responsibility, largely because they quickly found other races to compete in, not least the referendum on independence.
The Games were fantastic and made us all feel a little better about ourselves. We will just have to settle for that.