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Just for my Mum, a blog about non-blogging, non-news following, Harriet and cycling

Posted on 27 July 2013 | 1:07pm

This one is for my Mum. She is not the only one to say ‘you haven’t been blogging much lately,’ but she is the only one who is my Mum. This is a new maternal criticism. She normally criticises me when she sees me on the telly without a tie (usually Andrew Neil’s fault because he and Michael Portillo try to be trendy on This Week.) She also has a pop every now and then because she thinks I exercise too much. And when I was in Downing Street she had a pop often, mainly telling me to get out because she didn’t like all the aggro I got, and the effect it had on her! (See diaries volume 4 in particular)

This is the first time she has taken me to task for not blogging. Like Fiona’s Mum, she has adapted to the Internet age pretty well, and sits tapping away at an iPad quite the thing. She doesn’t do twitter or facebook though, so the only way of knowing if I have updated my blog is to keep checking. Clearly, checking and seeing no change for day after day has annoyed her, and this won’t do.

So what to blog about, other than the fact that my Mum told me to do a blog? It is a funny thing this blogging business. There was a time when it was almost like shaving or brushing my teeth; it was something I had to do to get my brain into gear for the day, and force myself to keep abreast of what was happening in the world.

But every now and then I just lose the interest. It might be because I am depressed. It might be because I am travelling. This time it might be because I was – and still am – having troubles with the comments section of the website which means I have not been able to post comments for a while (being sorted, but I have not shouted yet). It is also because I popped over to France to follow a few stages of the Tour de France, and a combination of spectating, cycling, and meeting up with friends from the Tour, kept me busy, and distracted me from the kind of things I normally blog about. I have barely seen a newspaper or watched the news.

I know there has been a Royal birth, and his name is George. I know Nelson Mandela is still alive because I check every morning. I know the GDP figures were marginally better than expected and on that slim fact the Tories and their media lackeys have gone into overdrive. I know that there was a terrible train crash in Spain, and that Egypt and Syria continue to dominate the foreign news agenda for the wrong reasons. I know that Barcelona have a new manager and that Rooney and Suarez both want away. I know England are battering the Aussies, and Mickelson won the Open. Apart from that, I cannot claim to be as well-informed as usual.

So I thought I would blog about the Tour, but the political angle of Harriet Harman’s calling on the organisers to have a women’s tour alongside the men’s, which has met with a rather testy response from Tour supremo Christian Prudhomme, who I met recently alongside cycling legend Bernard Hinault in the incongruous setting of the Chelsea Flower Show.

I can remember a few years ago watching the women’s Tour when it went through Bedoin, and being really impressed. But the fact is that finding sponsors and support has not been easy, and it has not happened for a while. Also, the men’s Tour, which next year starts in the UK – hence Harriet’s intervention – is one of the biggest logistical operations in world sport. I can understand why the organisers, who do a pretty amazing job, do not want to add the complication of a women’s tour alongside.

I think it is perfectly justifiable for Harriet to call for a women’s Tour, and a laudable aim, but the appeal should also be to sponsors, broadcasters and the public.

Next year is going to be remarkable. I think the riders will be shocked both by the scenery and some of the hills in Yorkshire, and by the passion of the Brits for cycling these days. They saw something of it at the Olympics, but the Tour will be something else. On the back of that, women’s sport should agitate for the financial and public support they need to get what Harriet is asking for.

One year on from the Olympics, there is a lot of talk about legacy. There is a very mixed picture, as David Bond of the BBC pointed out in a rather good piece. The passion for sport is undimmed, but yet to be translated into the kind of facilities and participation numbers that really would indicate a generation had been inspired.

A year ago, I suggested that the only way truly to harness the legacy was to make Sport and Olympics Legacy, at least for a few years, a Cabinet position, with its own budget and ability to range across other relevant departments. I was told it was being met with some support in Number 10, but alas not by the man who really matters.

I see Tessa Jowell has said the same thing. Perhaps this is something Labour can make part of the next manifesto. It was a Labour government that helped bring the Games to London, and pave the way for the successful transition to their delivery under the coalition government. Harriet Harman is as well placed as anyone to elevate the position of sport within the political system, and perhaps it is a Labour government that could do that too. Among the many challenges facing a new Secretary of State for Sport could be the development of women’s road racing so that sponsors, broadcasters and public sit up and take notice.

  • Michele

    Welcome back mine host and a big ‘Thank You’ to your Mum for kicking your butt πŸ™‚

    You’ll be telling us next that you’re off to your French village for a month – have a good break …. envy envy envy πŸ™‚


    I thought Iris’s post on the thread re suicide’s survivors was very relevant, hope my reply to her hasn’t disappeared in to the ether with the flippin’ Comments problems πŸ™


    Our wonderful NHS Direct service is disappearing with so much else, we’re living in the age of ‘small state and more competition’ (while G4S competes with its own child Serco for prison contracts).

    I’m tempted to post ‘Oi Vey’ πŸ™

    • Michele

      More re the above – our little local problem has been beaten by the humungous protests from the community, overturned by the courts and declared ILlegal.
      Inner cheek-chewing Hunt has been thwarted in his bonkers and illegal attempt to close our A&E and sell off hospital land in order to pay the debts of a neighbouring – a neighbouring – (that was my Kinnock moment) PCT !!!

      Thank heavens local Ambulance crews are no longer under the threat of having to keep emergency patients alive while being traipsed along THAT forever-congested South Circular Rd all the way along to Woolwich.

    • Ehtch

      By the way, you all doing well, Michele, GillandDes and Dave S? And Alastair of course?

      Am doing OK, so don’t bother to ask, tell me how you are doin’?. : )

      • GillandDes Currie

        I’m well Etch. Keeping an eye on the world so it doesn’t get too out of hand. And doesn’t forget so quickly. Other than that, life is good.

        • Ehtch

          The World is going NUTS, as usual Des, but I am worried that the UK will go extra nuts on an ice cream soon. It’s not looking good, with poster vans and things going about picking on people.

      • Dave Simons

        Loving the heat wave!

        • Ehtch

          While it lasted – been bucketing down in Wales for a good few days now. But I melted a few weeks back, was a total mess on the carpet….

      • Michele

        Fine thanks Ehtch, hope you and yours are too,
        Have I mentioned I’m going to become a Grandma eh have I have I? πŸ˜€

        • Ehtch

          That’ll keep you busy for a while. Grandchildren always love their grandma, and grow up to hate their parents, for some reason… : ) Well, hate might be the wrong word, indifference then, I think, is a better word.

  • GillandDes Currie

    You could do a piece on Iraq and how much more stable that country is after your former boss invaded it.
    Des Currie

    • Dave Simons

      The Middle East is unstable, invasion or no invasion. No-one invaded Egypt or Syria. What I would like to know about Iraq is how many people living there would wish to return to the pre-war situation under Saddam Hussein, despite all the trouble since. If a majority are nostalgic you have a good point. But don’t forget that relative stability is often acquired by extreme repression – as for instance in Saudi Arabia, and certainly in Hussein’s Iraq.

      • Michele

        Wasted effort DS, G&D (if there really is a couple at all behind the ID) are/is poisonous (just as are the WsMD that Saddam had exported in to hiding in Syria and which are doubtless just some of what is being used in that country now).

        I’ve posted again recently about what Hans Blix said on Today in ’03 that he thought had happened to the stockpiles that did exist but which the UN couldn’t find – I’m not in the least surprised that neither he nor John Humphrys has mentioned that during the present conflicts.

        Have a good summer πŸ™‚

      • Ehtch

        John Kerry is in the middle of it at the moment. Good luck to him!

        He’ll need it.

  • Ehtch

    Good luck again Bolton at home in an hour Alastair.

    Brilliant highlights of the Swans beating Sweden’s toppish side on Thursday night here, in the Europa Cup qualifier,

  • Michele

    Back to topic …. a women’s race, I was annoyed with myself for not being able to recall the British woman who used to race up and down and around the Pennines a long long time ago (I was just a nipper, ahem).

    Beryl Burton πŸ™‚

    Seeing how many brilliant British cyclists there have been over the decades, I can finally understand the anger about the American who did it all by unfair means…..Lance something or other.

    I’d ‘excused’ him because of how much he’d given to charity but that ignores the waste and blocking of so much talent within the sport during the precious few years each could have come through as is happening now the top is clean.


    “That could be in Labour’s manifesto”. We need policies first Ally and at the moment we have zero. This is the worst and most incompetent government in years and yet we don’t lay a glove on them.

  • reaguns

    Just testing, my last comment didn’t seem to get through.

    I wondered if Alastairs lack of blog was due to the political cycle, due to the economy picking up and a greater awareness that the Tories are winning arguments with the public on crime immigration and welfare, Alastair knows that at present he’d be pissing in the wind to dissent, so is keeping the head down and saving his ammo for when it will have more effect.

    I think the biggest problem for both Alastair, Ed Miliband and indeed Cameron is Lynton Crosby. The Australian just knows what most ordinary people want far more than any of them, hence he got John Howard to 4 election wins and wonderful period for Australia of economic growth, low crime, and an immigration policy that was equally aggressive in keeping out those Australia didn’t want, but also recruiting in those Australia did want.

    • Dave Simons

      It’s premature to talk about the economy picking up. You shouldn’t be so quick to fall for Tory hype. For example they say they’ve created a million jobs in the private sector since coming into office, but a lot of these jobs are fly-by-night tuppeny halfpenny jobs, here today and gone tomorrow, and some jobs have been ‘created’ as a result of redefinition – formerly in the public sector but now in the private sector. Sounds good though, doesn’t it – a million, nice neat figure, easily memorable – ‘Sun’ readers like that.

      The economy will most likely be made to appear to pick up in the two years leading up to the General Election because the Tories are banking on forming a minority government, free of the LibDem shackles, if shackles is not perhaps too strong a word. And of course the old cards will be played – immigration, scroungers, crime. They are also already trying to pose – Disraeli-like – as the true party of the poor, something they never have been and never will be.

      • reaguns

        Ok. Here’s the score. No matter how awful your stewardship of the economy, almost by law it must pick up at some point. So it was probably going to under Tories or Labour. This nuance will be lost on voters.
        Second of all, Cameron and Osborne despite all the empty criticisms of Gordon Brown have had the exact same economic policy as him, just as Balls and Miliband have the same policy as them today, try though they may to pretend there is a difference. Cam and Osbo are now trying to reinflate a housing bubble, hoping that it is big enough to win them the election, but small enough that they can fix it in the next term. Thats what help to buy and more money printing / low rates are all about.
        Of course the Tories are not the party of the poor, but then labour have thrown that away too, labour are neither the party of the poor nor the party of the working man, condemn as they did so many of our unemployed and employed to low wages and unemployment by deliberately bringing in foreigners, in the hope that all 3 groups would vote labour, along with the public sector which they excessively expanded for the same purpose. Chris Bryant’s words yesterday, which I suspect he was forced to say as he is smarter and more decent than that, took incredible brass neck. Blaming tesco and next for doing precisely what Labour wanted them to do, ie employ cheap immigrants.
        As for the million private sector jobs created, and the “offset” of the public sector jobs loss, of what, half a million, yes to a sun reader that means a net 1 million success stories, and to a daily mirror reader it means half a million failures. To me it is 1.5 million success stories, ie even if the tories had sacked 500,000 public sector workers and created no new jobs, that would still have net beneficial effect on the rest of the economy.
        Its like when I used to work for a large bureaucratic company, a rent seeking private company who carried out government contracts. For every worker we had about 5 admin staff and about 5 managers. This would have been hard to defend even if the admin had made our jobs easier by handling our admin, as the admin do in my present company. But no, this lot spent their days creating work for each other and us, instead of getting rid of work which is what you are supposed to do in a job, so now my job is easier that I don’t have them. Its the same thing with the public sector and our economy, if we put them on the dole, instead of damaging the economy they’d have a neutral effect, and we would have to pay them less. Some of them might even get real jobs, though I’d love to know the figures for people moving from civil service work to real work.