Home Page Upside down world may be good for cricket but can leave politics in ashes 07/01/11

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Matthew Hancock
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Hart of the Matter

It doesn’t seem possible that a decade has already gone by since we celebrated the Millennium, but Haverhill Local History Group’s latest exhibition proves that to be the case.

In fact, it is the same exhibition they put up for the big event ten years ago, charting 1,000 years of Haverhill in words and pictures.

We are now so well and truly into the 21st century that we can start using the prefix ‘twenty...’ rather than the rather odd ‘two thousand and...’ that had crept in.

We now ought to practise saying regularly: “Australia have only won one Ashes series since back in Twenty-O-three”, rather than Two Thousand and Three. After all, we didn’t get hammered by the French in One Thousand and Sixty-Six.

As I write this on a morning when we can be forgiven for taking a triumphalist – not to say colonialist – view of all things Antipodean, it is hard to remember it is ten years since they staged a rather exhibitionist and overdone Olympics. Ours will, of course, be more reserved and refined.

I think we are all getting a bit fed up with being told how buoyant the Australian economy is, despite the crises elsewhere in the world. Perhaps this humiliation will bring the upstarts back down to their proper place in the world.

One hesitates to suggest that one of the main reasons for English success and Australian failure on the cricket field has been the dismal weather they have had for much of their summer.

We are much more used to that – and what can you expect if you insist on wanting to enjoy the hottest weather at Christmas. Most unseasonal.

Nevertheless, sporting success can be a catalyst for economic revival. Those of us who sat up into the early hours just in the hope of seeing some senior Australian cry may be flagging a little at our desks today, but come Monday morning we should be fit and raring to go with a new sense of confidence.

It happened in 2005 when we won the Ashes here for the first time for ages – and against a much better Australian team – and there was a real sense of euphoria which had some economic spin-offs. Excellent work by non-political people representing this country does have a spin-off for politicians.

Cue the prime minister beaming onto our screens early this morning and telling us he had been talking with Andrew Strauss, almost as if he had been a secret member of the backroom team.

It’s the way of the world. You achieve something particularly good at work, and often it is your boss who takes the credit. You make a boo-boo and you carry the can.

But the opposite can also be true. Mistakes and ineptitude in high places can rub off on colleagues lower down the scale.

There was a very interesting paragraph in the letter written to David Cameron by Haverhill Town Council this week. The letter was mostly expressing concerns about benefit and social housing changes, and how they would affect the people of Haverhill.

But towards the end, it made a very perceptive political point which Mr Cameron and his advisers might do well to take on board if they have not already done so.

The letter recalls the effect of the Iraq War on local politics. Labour, which had been almost unassailably strong in Haverhill, and which had a very high satisfaction rating for its running of the town council, fell foul of the Iraq backlash.

No amount of good work locally could counteract the effect of being of the same political colouring as Tony Blair. ‘Tainted’ is how the letter describes it.

When the elections came, it was the Conservatives who benefited. Now, local Conservatives can see themselves being in the same position. If the Government – or even the county council – goes on growing in unpopularity at the rate it is currently, no amount of local effort will see re-election of those Tories.

Public distrust of politics is now so great, and the public’s memory so long, that it is unlikely to jump back to Labour like an errant wife who finds her lover wasn’t as exciting in a domestic environment as she had imagined.

The most likely scenario is an increase in support for other parties. In the past, the Lib-Dems might have benefited, but the Tories have led them off a cliff, so minority interest groups are all that is left. It may not be the BNP, but some group, somewhere – maybe the Save Haverhill Fire Station Party – will fill the void. And that is extremely dangerous.

We heard this week about the changes that are going to be taking place in the way policing is governed in this country. Instead of police authorities, made up of councillors, there will be a single police and crime commissioner in charge of each constabulary, elected by the public.

Now there’s a job for a barmy independent...

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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