English Football and the Labour Party

I have been somewhat disillusioned with British Politics since 1979 when my first opportunity to vote saw my wishes ignored and Margaret Thatcher moved from being the milk snatcher to becoming the declarer of a society free country. In the years that followed I attempted to use my vote well in trying to secure some version of socialism; at one point even attempting to become a local labour councillor. I say 'attempting' in the loosest sense in that I campaigned in a rural part of Norfolk giving me less of chance of being elected than of David Moyes being invited to a Manchester United manager's reunion party.

I like to think that perhaps Stephen Fry voted for me but I suspect he was too busy practicing his manservant skills.

So here I am a fifty-something idealist considering repeating a lifetime pattern of voting for the Labour Party in both this week's European ballot box and the next general elections, still hoping for a bit of socialism to be brought back to the country I love. What I have seen over the years is a succession of Labour leaders trying to act like the Tories in order to gain power. In order to win.

I have been somewhat disillusioned with the England football team since 1986 when Diego Maradona employed the 'hand of god' to knock our team out of the Argentinian World Cup. My dismay is not really with Diego but with the way we English place an expectation upon our national team to be what we are not.

Every four years we are treated to a succession of English teams trying to play football like the Italians, the French, and a whole host of other countries.

I wonder if we were to give up such fanciful notions and played to our strengths what kind of upset we might produce in international competitions. Trying to be what you are not generally brings about disappointment.

The comparison between the English football team and the Labour Party seems to me self evident: both are trying copy others in order to win.

In his excellent book Obliquity Professor John Kay suggests that setting our sights on the most direct goal, whether profit, winning, or success, generally brings about failure. In comparison the more oblique response has a way of often producing the success that we may hope for. 'The happiest people are often not those who aim to be happy' he suggests.

So if Roy Hodgson ignored the possibility of winning the world cup and focussed on playing a style of football that suited our current crop of top players could it produce a better outcome.

If Ed Milliband decided not to make residence in Downing Street his driving ambition but looked to express what it meant to be a left-leaning party would the voters respond to the freshness of a genuine opposition voice.

Personally I would rather vote for a party that was less bothered about sound bites and more interested in principles. So Ed I implore you:

Tell us that if we can afford to pay for war we can afford to pay for a health service.
Tell us that you will work toward full employment.
Tell us that you believe in good education for all.
Tell us that you will expect the rich to play their part in funding our nations infrastructure.
Tell us that austerity is not the only way of dealing with economic crisis.

The country might not vote you into power but at least you will be true to what it means to be a socialist. You may not be asked to form a government but at least you will be a credible opposition with a voice worth listening to.

Who knows, in an oblique way, by trying not to make winning your goal, at the expense of your principles, you might actually surprise a few people. And if you did get elected at least you will have a mandate to be truly socialist.

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