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A hobby horse, a plug and a bit of sport

Posted on 27 March 2009 | 10:03am

A bit rushed this morning, but enough time to get on one of my hobby horses, plug a radio piece for a TV project I’m involved in, and promote the good side of sport.

First, the hobby horse – it is a myth that young people are not interested in politics and political debate. Interesting to see a good response here and elsewhere to the piece defending 22-year-old Georgia Gould against attacks from middle-aged men trying to stop her becoming Labour candidate for Erith and Thamesmead.

I’m seeing Ed Miliband soon, who as well as being Climate Change Secretary will have an important role in shaping the next Labour manifesto. I intend to suggest as part of that process he sets up groups of people including policy wonks, activists, supporters of progressive causes (and a few who have never much thought about any of it ) to feed into him the kind of things they want to see. Maximum age 30.

As the G20 gathers we will see a lot of activity from young people but if the media build up is anything to go by it could be of the violent and anarchic kind, which risks further fuelling the notion that young people only get into the news when they’re causing trouble.

Hence the plug for the TV project I’m involved in, the BBC 2 programme ‘The Speaker’ which starts on April 7, and which I will be talking about on Radio 4’s Front Row programme tonight. I haven’t seen any of the footage, but I am confident it will show young people in a good light and showing they have a real passion for using debate to make change for the better.

The reason for the rush is that I am up against a few deadlines – one, self-imposed, on the next novel before I go to France to promote the launch of the last one, and another for the piece I am doing for the Times magazine on Keighley Cougars rugby league team. According to the magazine the pictures are fantastic – we had great access, including into the dressing-room team talks – and the editor likes the outline I sent her, so I’ll get it done today and hopefully that will be appearing in the coming weeks. The photographer, in further proof that I am being left behind in the new-tech world, took a short video film on his ordinary-looking print-taking camera, and a clip from that is on the site, to give a flavour.

One of the themes of the piece is the role clubs like that try to play in giving hope to their communities, and anyone interested in that kind of thing should take a look at the piece on Swindon in today’s Times. The football club’s struggle to avoid relegation is presented as a metaphor for the town doing its best to get through the downturn. Neat move to lower prices for the unemployed. Good piece.

Now more than ever, people are looking for a sense of community. Family is more important than ever. The bonds that tie people together can either get broken by adversity, or strengthened by it, and I suspect there is more of the latter than the former. Sport has a big role to play in that. Nice to see the Swindon fans standing – (if I was on the under 30s group, I would definitely have a ‘bring back standing’ policy in there). It also gives the Times a good headline. ‘Stand up if you hate the recession: town needs team to inspire recovery.’

Now off to polish the piece on Keighley.

  • Hannah Bell

    Keep riding the hobby horse, because young people need to be encouraged to turn their interests into an understanding that politics does matter and does lead to change. I think that is a great idea to have a manifesto panel of under 30 year olds. Unfortunately I miss out by one year.

  • Matt Plumber

    Heard you on Radio Leeds re the rugby league. Sounded like an amazing match. Leeds are getting good crowds, maybe because the football team is struggling. I certainly feel sports teams matter more to a community when times are tough. Will read the Times piece

  • Judith Haire

    Hope the polishing went well. I missed the story about Georgia Gould but my hackles are rising at the very thought of anyone let alone middle aged men stopping her in her quest to become a Labour candidate, good on Georgia I went to school in Erith and gosh she sounds like she will be a breath of very fresh air there. Swindon are to be congratulated – football clubs should be encouraged to give something back to the community instead of stinging them with over inflated prices for the kit. Oh and I heard you on FiveLive on social workers (good). Got the England flag flying today let’s hope we get a win tomorrow and while I can see Beckham’s point to Capello about Rooney, WR does need to show a bit more restraint and professionalism on pitch. When you see Ed Miliband you might ask him about the shop in Manchester that closed 6 months ago but still has all its lights blazing cos no one knows where the off switch is.

  • Alina Palimaru

    You make an interesting point about media portrayal of youth. As with so many other issues, the media framing of this group does not seem to be representative of what some (or most) of us do and are preoccupied with.

    I remember in the early days of the Obama campaign, right-leaning outlets had a cheap shot at discrediting the overwhelming support for Obama, by intimating that the people who advocated for him were not trustworthy and did not appear to have strong convictions. A case in point is the young lady who became an instant YouTube sensation with her “Crush on Barack Obama” clip where she walked around in New York wearing a T-shirt and skirt (that together couldn’t even provide enough cloth for a proper handkerchief) proclaiming she had a crush on Obama. Funny, I know, perhaps a bit denigrating to women, but some pundits looked too much into it, essentially saying that this is Obama’s constituency. As tradition has it, in came incessant coverage of the wretched creature… What does she eat? What music does she listen to? All she managed to convey was that she had a limited vocabulary, about 300 words, 250 of which were the word “like.”

    Meanwhile, Barack Obama’s speech-writer is a 27-year old young man, which by any standards is a pretty impressive job for his age. I don’t know his name, where he went to school, what his motivations are or why he was working for Obama… simply because the media never cover him… almost. I do remember, quite vividly, that the only time he made the news was when he got tipsy at a campaign party and foolishly pretended to grab a life-size plastic Hillary Clinton by her breast.

    The list continues… poor youth are susceptible to violence, wealthy youth are unable to be anything without their family name, smart students are always ugly and nerdy, un-cool…

    I know that talking about young people who “rock” in way that doesn’t comply with the MTV definition is not “sexy” enough, but there still needs to be a counter-balance of some sort. Being intelligent, or hard-working, or articulate is actually very cool. A lot of young people are very intelligent and/or work hard to exhaustion. And this should be represented in the public forum as such.

  • Steve Kaye

    Just registered to follow you on Twitter. Our link is I have been a season ticket holder in James Hargreaves Lower and Longside prior since the European Fairs Cup!Not what I wanted to write to you about though. I am currently ‘on one’ about the lack of training, support and monitoring of company directors in terms of their behaviour, skills and knowledge regarding company direction and governance. I believe the general public would welcome the present government taking a far more proactive role. I have written to my local MP, the PM’s office and John Denham who heads up the DUIS. I would love to have your views. Could you email me?
    Re visiting Ed Miliband. Great idea re policy but why under 30?

  • Obnoxio The Clown

    Maximum age 30.

    That would certainly cut out a lot of useless dead wood like the Cabinet, the Prime Mentalist, Dolly Draper and your good self.

    Excellent idea.

  • Chris Simkins

    I think your idea for putting together a younger group to discuss the next manifesto sounds great.

    Following my earlier comment, if you need a volunteer who probably counts as someone who has ‘never much thought about any of it’ I’d love to be involved!

  • Stuart Mudie

    You’re off to France? Where? Any public events planned in Paris?

  • John.M.Cowin

    VERY pleased to meet Alex Ferguson las week – working class/trade union background – stayed with his socialst principles – cheered me up no end.

    NOT so delighted to see that you had a hand in the New Statesman edition – cannot overlook your cheerleading role in Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq – shame on you.

  • Catriona Smith

    Due to a busy couple of weeks I just managed to see your review of In The Loop on The Culture Show (thanks to the BBC i-Player). I enjoyed what you had to say, in particular when you tackled Mark Kermode re’ the ‘politics is venal’ quote. I jumped when you said that kind of thinking was lazy and was indeed total cynicism…This is a mantra of mine which I’m sure my children are tired of hearing. Your piece about Georgia Gould was encouraging, because young people are becoming politicised again..Elsewhere though, cynicism is endemic and people very easily slip into a mocking mode whenever the subject of politics and politicians comes up. I fear cynicism because it is so deadly, a cancer… It stands to reason therefore that our Government should set an example on standards of behaviour and how expenses etc are managed. Apart from that obvious fact, how about telling people how much life has improved in Britain since 1997? It’s a long time and people have become complacent.

  • chris wilson

    I pledge ignorance, but if you can tell me why communism died and socialism prospered i’ll vote labour next time.

  • AC

    Chris, have tried to answer in a sentence on today’s blog, just posted

  • Alan Quin

    Ally, if you want to see community in football pop in to watch FC United of Manchester next time you’re in the area.
    We’re a fan owned, democratic club and have many community based initiatives including working with schools, colleges, kids in care, persistent young offenders etc.
    You can also sing and stand for 90 mins without being told to “sit down”.