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Could Gordon be accused of “flip-flopping” over football?

June 12th, 2006

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    Has he made the right call over England’s World Cup bid?

You can’t help but feeling a bit sorry for Gordon over the timing of the World Cup. There he is in the final stages of his plan to take over the Labour leadership and along comes the contest which in the UK is the ultimate “English-fest”.

With the question mark over his appeal to the electors as a whole being the main obstacle standing in the way of the succession that he regards as his getting the World Cup right is critical – and much more important than any policy issue.

The problem is that he’s Scottish. And whether it’s true or not there’s a widespread perception that nothing will cause so much pleasure north of the border as an early England exit – something that will be reinforced in the next few days by media coverage of Trinidad & Tobago shirts being sold in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    So where does that leave Gordon’s decision to become an enthusiastic England supporter? The danger is that he sounds like a phony which is how the move in his budget to curb duty on champagne so “England’s victory could be celebrated” appeared.

His “conversion” to the England cause will appear as an opportunistic move designed solely to make him more attractive to voters south of the border. It points up an issue where he feels he got a problem and that could rebound on him. For there’s a long history of Gordon being a very strong Scottish football fan who cares about it very deeply. Supporting the “Auld Enemy” doesn’t fit.

The appearance of being a flip-flopper was underlined by this which appeared in Scotland on Sunday yesterday “..Last month he (Brown) announced he would be supporting England throughout this year’s competition and that one of his favourite football memories was Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland in Euro ’96. This came as a surprise to Charlie Whelan, his former spin doctor, who pointed out that after the Auld Enemy beat Scotland 2-0 in 1999 Brown was so upset the two “did not speak for weeks”.

Of course England are not playing Scotland and he can say that he supports both national sides – but that sounds a bit feeble. My view is that the Chancellor should have just shut up for the following month. Flip-flopping over politics is one thing – but flip-flopping over football for apparent political advantage is something the public understands and could cost him dear.

    Neither the other possible Scottish leadership rival, John Reid, nor his fellow Fife MP and Lib Dem leader, Ming Campbell have felt the need to publicly back England so why has Brown?

It will be interesting to see how the Cameron/Osborne sound-bite machine deals with this one. They’ll be looking for a phrase that will resonate and possibly damage which will reach an audience that is much wider than those interested in politics. Brown being so naked in the pursuit of power is not a quality that goes down very well.

In the leadership betting Brown is still at 0.36/1 with Alan Johnson at 8.6/1.

Mike Smithson






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