Week : 12th - 16th July
I guess my attention has been drawn to the continuing fall-out over the European Cup. Heck, who would have thought that a non-football fan would be so caught up in it?
The outpouring of public support for those footballers who were on the receiving end of hateful social media taunts has been the one positive thing that has come out of this. For now, there is an active discussion about the issues which are about more than football - they are about the way society is and perhaps what it aspires to be.
Back in June Priti Patel chose not to decry the booing which followed the England team “taking the knee” before the start of their games.
Now let’s be clear one definition of ‘gesture politics’ is…
“any action by a person or organisation done for political reasons and intended to attract public attention but having little, real effect”
Perhaps it’s just me, but once the publics attention is drawn to a cause then surely that can lead to political change.
As for Priti Patel to say “I just don't support people participating in that type of gesture politics,” GB News, well that doesn’t jibe with me.
Gesture Politics is part and parcel of the ‘press’ linked to every politician and their ‘photo calls’, ‘family album photos’ (G7); their ‘conference' slogans, rhetoric and platforms.
Surely before action, there needs to be awareness?
“Taking the Knee” started as a response to the killing of George Floyd and was an attempt to raise awareness of power inequalities and the treatment of Black People.
As the “Black Lives Matter” moved from protest to an ideology the ‘gesture’ became linked to something slightly different. However, as with all gestures (and indeed words), the meaning can and does evolve.
The England Football team were clear about what the gesture was about and was not about. The inability of some to recognise that clear statement may well be part and parcel of the ensuing issues.
It may be in Parliament that honourable members ‘boo’ and ‘jeer’ at each other’s points of view but is that a behaviour we want to see in society as a whole? What’s ok in theatre and pantomime doesn’t necessarily play well in real life.
In the specific instance, crowds were being given ‘free license’ to boo a gesture aimed at recognising diversity and inequalities.
In a Facebook post written in June, the Ashfield MP Lee Ashwood wrote
‘For the first time in my life I will not be watching my beloved England team whilst they are supporting a political movement whose core principles aim to undermine our very way of life’.
Seemingly he too failed to recognise what the team’s gesture was all about.
At the same time, Brendan Clarke-Smith caused a storm after drawing parallels between England’s players ‘taking a knee’ and the Nazi salute.
At least Tom Hunt was a little less dogmatic when he suggested that the England football team to stop taking the knee before matches and to show their opposition to discrimination in other ways.
In what I would consider the antithesis of ‘diversity awareness’ the MP for Mansfield, Ben Bradley, whilst condemning racism in the UK, adding that ‘When you start to push everyone to identify themselves by the colour of their skin, that is not a good thing’. Bradley suggests an approach to racism that doesn’t ‘single out characteristics’ that divide us.
Ok so let’s ignore the things that do divide us in order to understand how to recognise and deal with the things that do divide us.
These MP’s don’t have the criticism of the England team in ‘taking the knee' in common, but also the political gesturing of publically commenting on how proud they were of the team’s success.
Has footballer Tyronne Miggs tweeted this week
'You don't get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as "Gesture Politics" and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we're campaigning against, happens.'
So, now we come to the icing on the cake.
After the match itself, two MP’s distinguished themselves by suggesting that if the players and focussed on football rather than politics they could have done better!
MP Andrew Rosindell took to Twitter to tell footballers to 'focus on football, not politics' and Natalie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover and Deal, suggested that Marcus Rashford should have spent more time "perfecting his game" rather than "playing politics in a post to a WhatsApp group.
There’s a couple of things that really bother me here.
Firstly, the very act of living, working and being is intertwined with politics. Not necessarily the narrow, ideologies of Party Politics, but the broader politics of society, power relationships and rights.
Secondly, if governments want to have the involvement of the populace in democratic, political processes then MPs cannot be the arbiters and sole agents of political and societal awareness and change.
This was so aptly summarized by Gary Linekar
'Freedom of speech for all… except pesky footballers who should know their place'
Or by Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner who said:
"While the country was commiserating [with] our great team, Tory MPs were sneering at the inspirational players who stepped up to feed hungry kids when they voted to leave them without food."
Ok, that could be a political gesture?
Euro-Freebies for MP’s
Nine MPs accepted free Euro 2020 tickets from gambling companies was one of the headlines in The Guardian (16/07/21)
The updated register of MPs’ interests shows that …
Esther McVey, the former work and pensions secretary accepted a £3,457 ticket to England v Denmark. McVey took her freebies from Entain, with a ticket and hospitality worth £3,457, and a ticket to Wimbledon worth £1,100. Her husband, the Tory MP Philip Davies, declared the same freebies from Entain.
Labour’s Toby Perkins, a shadow skills minister, took the same package as McVey from Entain, the Gibraltar-based sports betting company that owns Ladbrokes, while Mark Tami, an opposition whip, took £1,961 from Power Leisure bookmakers to see England play Germany.
Blackpool South MP Scott Benton, who racked up almost £8,000 worth of hospitality from various companies for England football games, as well as hospitality at Wimbledon and Royal Ascot.
Three Tory MPs, Graham Stuart, Stuart Andrew and Ben Bradley, were all given tickets to England v Germany at Wembley with hospitality worth £1,961 by Power Leisure.
Laurence Robertson, the Tory MP for Tewkesbury, declared three separate freebies from companies and an industry body linked to gambling. He had the £3,457 package from Entain at England v Denmark; hospitality worth £2,800 from the Betting and Gaming Council at Royal Ascot; and another event at Sandown racecourse hosted by Coral bookmakers worth £300.
The highest total value of hospitality went to Benton, who took a ticket to England v Czech Republic from Gamesys, an online casino and bingo company, worth £1,537.60; hospitality to Royal Ascot from the Betting and Gaming Council worth £1,400; a ticket to Wimbledon from Entain worth £1,400; and another ticket from Entain to England v Denmark worth £3,457.
Labour MP Charlotte Nichols was given a ‘freebie’ by Heineken after tweeting a picture of herself next to the Tory MP Mike Woods at the England v Denmark match.
A staff member of the Conservative MP Alberto Costa also attended the game courtesy of Heineken. The ticket was worth £595.
Now, whilst these ‘perks’ have been formally and duly recorded n the register of interests I like to reflect on the notion that in business and in party politics there are strings to every gift. One has to wonder how and if these gambling companies come to collect on the gambles they have taken with these ‘freebies’.