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Dear Mr Cameron: Please create a new Department for Sport and Olympics Legacy in reshuffle

Posted on 3 September 2012 | 6:09am

There are two big events going on this week, both of which will see people most Brits haven’t heard of till now being propelled to greater prominence.

The first is the Paralympics and the day by day, hour by hour rollout of some of the most remarkable sporting and human endeavors of our time. The second is the ministerial reshuffle.

I feel a bit sorry for David Cameron here. Clearly with his political and economic strategies not working he needs to make changes but both politics and a limit in the talent pool restrict him in what he can do.

Also the mood generated by the Olympics and Paralympics is so distant from where politics and economics are right now that the public interest will be limited and whatever he does I suspect we will all end up feeling underwhelmed and then go back to concentrating on the sport. The phrase ‘talking to an empty stadium’, one of Philip Gould’s favourites to describe the nature of much political debate, springs to mind.

But ministerial appointments really matter and I want to give him an idea that will align politics and economics with the Olympics rather more convincingly than George Osborne tried to do on the Marr Show yesterday. Poor old George seemed to think if he just said ‘Olympics’ often enough people would think he was competent and growth would come. The Olympics and all the individual successes took hard graft not miracles, George. They took new ideas and amazing commitment and teamwork.

My idea – which I tried to get the last Labour government to do and which I suggested to this one in a note to Number 10 several months ago (still to be acknowledged btw … wouldn’t have happened in my day blah…) is the creation of a new Department for Sport, with a seat at the Cabinet table, a proper budget, and ministerial representation on all key economic, health, education, crime and community policy committees, not to mention Olympics Legacy.

The Secretary of State should have the same role in overseeing legacy projects that ministers had as the 2012 project came together. Obviously over time the Legacy part of the brief will start to fade. But by then hopefully the Department for Sport will be as much an accepted part of the political and cultural landscape as health, education or the economy. And meanwhile sport will be more deeply embedded in our lives.

I was really pleased to see my old schoolmate Gary Lineker (who has never played on the same side as Maradona btw but was always quite good at football) retweeting and supporting my call on Michael Gove to reverse the massive cuts in school sport. You only need to listen to so many of our Olympic and Paralympic medal winners, paying tribute to their PE teachers as the ones who first set them on the road to greatness, to understand what a stupid move this was.

This is not hindsight speaking because in the same note I warned that this decision would come back to haunt them when people saw what an amazing effect the success of the Olympics would have on the mood of the country. And now it is. But it is the kind of decision that should never have been taken; and would never have been taken had there been a serious voice fighting for sport in the Cabinet.

So I really hope Mr Cameron does it. I know how hard these reshuffles are. Egos. Politics (complicated by the coalition). Tony Blair never had an easy one. But this move, Prime Minister, is a no-brainer. It is strategic not tactical. It meets the moment. Most importantly it will help ensure the changes brought by this wonderful summer of sport are not forgotten by winter, but endure for the long-term and to the benefit of future generations.

So whatever else he has in mind today, I really really hope a Secretary of State for Sport and Olympic Legacy is in the mix. If he does it, I will support him on it unequivocally, no ifs no buts.

  • Ian

    If only Cameron would listen to common sense, just imagine what would happen!! Pigs and flying ce to mind.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Change needed.
    David Cameron has lost three cabinet ministers since 2010: Laws, Fox and Huhne.
    Other changes have been minimalist.
    But now some ministers are not up to job.
    Of course, if PM keeps Messrs Lansley, Gove etc he will give the next election victory to Labour on a silver plate.
    Labour´s best asset is George Osborne.
    It is now obvious to all but the chancellor that plan A is not working.
    Borrowing this year is already £47.2bn – £11.6bn up from 2011!
    There will be at least £20bn extra borrowing this year.
    Public sector net borrowing is going to rise from £1159bn (2012/13) to £1479bn (2016/17).
    Output will not return to average growth of 2.3% for years.
    Public sector net borrowing should be £120bn this year – 8.3% of GDP.
    The aim of the coalition is to balance cyclically-adjusted current budget by 2016-17.
    It also aims to have public sector net borrowing falling in 2015-16 as a share of GDP.
    Total managed expenditure is supposed to come down from 43.4% (12/13) to 39% in 2016-17.
    But public spending is now increasing – from £683.4bn to £756.3bn in 2016-17.
    We should, of course, take into account inflation.
    According to OBR debt will increase from 67.3% to 74.3% of GDP by 2016-17.
    Debt becomes a problem for governments at 85-90% of GDP.
    New Labour borrowed about £440bn in 13 years.
    Mr Osborne is going to borrow at least £600bn in just five years. £150bn more than the forecast.
    And 80% of the cuts are still to come.
    Plan A has already led to a double-dip recession. The coalition will not be able to meet its debt and deficit targets.
    48% want Mr Osborne to go.
    For the sake of Britain I hope this happens – for the sake of Labour it is better for George Osborne to stay…

  • KDouglas

    So Mr Smug Lineker is an old mate? I’d keep quiet about that if I were you – brand contagion and all that.

  • Anonymous

    “Please”? You should know by now Alastair, you might as well try talking to a brick garden wall in your appeals.
    They are the sort of crowd that if you went down on your hands and knees and said “please”, they would interprete it as what Oliver said – “please, can I have more?”, as in the same shit they have been churning out.
    Save your breath/fingers, Alastair, is what I advise.

  • Anonymous

    Wow more than one blog entry in a week and more than one update of the comments in a day, I might stop being bored stiff by this blog (as I have been for the past month.)
    There is no shortage of talent, its just that the talent lies in the right wing of the Tory party, and Cameron despises that wing. Like it or not Campbell, Cameron is far closer to you and Tony, than either of you were to Tony Benn or Ken Livingstone, or than Cameron is to Douglas Carswell, John Redwood and the like.
    I wouldn’t go as far as to call Cameron a left winger or you and Blair right wingers, but you guys were on the right of your party and he is on the left of his. His policies are almost identical to those Darling or Brown would have implemented economically or those that Balls wants to. So unless you support an alternative course, rather than an alternative leader of the same course, give it a rest eh?

    • Michele

      Thing is that New Labour had Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling as Chancellors, both of whom worked FOR the UK’s citizens.

      Osborne does not give a hoot about them, there’s a pernicious meanness about his primness.
      I can’t imagine wth he was thinking of in going to present medals tonight. My son and friends were there, I’d imagine they were LOL-ing (especially as two of them are in roles that mean they have been on 14hr shifts x 6dpw for 8 weeks or more ….. please don’t bother spitting back about overtime pay or I’ll resond about what a shame it was T May wasn’t by his side).

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t this Department of Sport easily be seen as a tactical move AC, is that not what you would call it if they had done if off their own bat, ie give sport a giant profile to get credit for the olympics, knowing that in 2 years time it will be forgotten and we will be left with yet more spending/bureuacracy. Also… don’t we already have a minister for sport, isn’t that what Colin Moynihan and Kate Hoey were?
    I also read a piece asking why the sudden emphasis on sport, would it be better if we were all a bit fitter but a bit thicker (the consequence of taking away time from academic subject to do sport) or would the sport be on top of the academics? Oh I’m not grumbling, I would have loved more sport when I was at school and would be in favour of more of it for kids today too.

  • Anonymous

    Ach, knew that for years, Alastair plays him. Lineker is a braincell disadavantaged, I have found, and has puppet strings, and plays golf, so that sums him up. He is, after all, a retired footie player, roaming around, looking around what to do next, I suppose, with their fat large wads in their back pockets, but ok Gary, so you didn’t put wads on horses, so?.

    Anyway, posted this already, but why not do it agan, I ask myself, ey Jonathan?
    Bang those balls, Gary, and why don’t you?

  • Anonymous

    Alright reaguns, how you doing, getting excited by all these wheelchairs? Somehow, I am not, but that is just me, more important things to think of, like life and death of the able, and things.
    Anyway, time for a song here, Sigrid und Marina, in their bentleys, at the start here, aus Osterrich reaguns, oh ja,
    mmmm, ey reaguns, ey?

  • Ehtch

    Jetzt nicht Alastair, Ich verlange nicht, zu hoffen, dass drei in einem bett in einem bett mit ihnen realisiert würde, bin ich nur zu praktizieren ist ein recht schmutzigen onkel, die alle Alastair ist. wie einige von uns müssen auf derart tragen. JA! : ) More Sigrid und Marina,

    OOPS, maybe not, Sveiss!

  • Anonymous

    Just saw Polly Toynbee say that this is the most right wing government we’ve ever had! HA!
    Polly is so frustrating, she clearly has a good brain, but she credits the rest of us with having no brains. Whether she has a point in terms of her followers I’m not sure. But surely she can criticise the government, say she wants stimulus not austerity etc without going in to this tosh.
    By the way, Margaret Thatcher was way to the right of this government. Churchill was way to the right. Any government before the war would have to be considered to the right. Even John Major was right of it. Even Ted Heath was right of this government! How can I say that? Well can you imagine David Cameron having Enoch Powell in his cabinet?

  • Anonymous

    Followers, like AC and I, of “Bank of Dave” may be pleased to know that David Davis, that far more substantial politician (again who AC likes) has suggested pretty much the remedies that Dave was after in Bank Of Dave, ie making it easier to open a small bank and compete, small local banks where the manager knows local markets and local people and can get the lending going again.

  • Pingback: Chance for footballers to show that what Olympics fans are saying about them isn’t true – every FC please read and RT | Alastair Campbell()

  • Anonymous

    Was a bit harsh on Gary there, as you do, just money jealous, that is all, I suppose. But hope he is a little involved in when his compatriots fall into the trap of putting their vast wages on three legged horses, with beautiful names. Many have a direct line to their bookies, it seems to me.
    Gambling has something to do with dopamine levels in the brain, and its abilty to raise it, or something like that, a person with a large Freud beard once explained to me.

  • Richard

    “…. there’s a pernicious
    meanness about his primness. ” Your powers of analysis are wonderous:
    write us a few pages on the charm and body language of Gordon Brown.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of Osborne and May, if I could have a reshuffle I’d get rid of Cameron and Osborne, though obviously neither of those can happen, removing Osborne would be an admission that the central strategy has failed.
    So of the great offices of state we are left with Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. Hague seems to have done not much wrong. But why oh why oh why was Theresa May not moved! What possible flak could Cameron get from this, she is useless and has no support. Its not like she can attack from the back benches “savaged by a sheep” comes to mind.
    He also couldn’t get rid of IDS or Gove because they have so much public support.
    Regarding Osborne vs Brown and Darling, well Osborne has not only failed but he comes across as a sneering “smirking bastard” as Bill Maher just said about Ryan/Romney. Brown and Darling failed too though, on a bigger scale. I think Brown was power hungry, and believed too deeply in his own brilliance, a brilliance that was proved not to exist in 2008
    Darling comes across as a more likeable chap, and in the views I can see from international economists he may be the one who gets most respect for his record. Even if I personally do not agree with his policies.

  • Michele

    I do happen to think GB has some charm as well as that incredible intellect that few can see the top of and which itself must put some demands on him to fulfil.

    It’s not on-trend at the moment to wonder how someone copes with a physical handicap but as someone that fears blindness more than anything else I can’t do anything but admire GB for his towering abilities and the more-recent one of winning someone’s love and support despite that challenging personality.

    Don’t worry Rich, poor thing, you can’t help failing to understand, the eager grasping at straws is pitiable.