Gordon’s on the stump. Or is he?

February 12, 2007

Gordon Brown stars in a high-profile announcement of Government support for a bid for England to host the next but three world cup of Football scheduled for 2018. Strange. What can he be up to, beyond a crude electioneering ploy as he awaits Tony Blair’s abdication? We examine other possibilities

There are few opportunities for a politician to show he or she is thinking that far ahead. The dangers of taking hostages to fortune are evident. Shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson was in little doubt, accusing the government of

“a very silly publicity stunt .. Gordon Brown would be much better off sorting out the mess he has made of the Olympics budget, or actually delivering on the other pledges he has already made about sport but not kept”

He might have added that any bid such would be made by the FA, and not before 2009.

Nothing new there, then.

This is far from a new story. As early as last July, The Sport’s minister, Richard Caborn, had signaled his commitment to such a bid. A report was to be commissioned. At the time a bid from Australia was noted as a likely competitor.

Today it was Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Gordon Brown who stepped up to announce the results of the report. (No sign of Richard Caborn). Where was the FA? Offering cautious approval for the Government’s support of a future bid.

The FA had bungled a bid for the 2006 World Cup and alienated support from the other European countries who supported Germany’s successful bid.

Not either-or but Yes And

The wider picture shows how a Political move is rarely Either-or. GB would hardly have risked the charge of political opportunism unless there were good reasons why the timing was right. The launch was both politically opportunistic and justified in terms of timing to seek a ‘first mover advantage’ within the European candidates. It may also have been necessary to ‘encourage’ the FA, perhaps still chastened after its 2006 misadventure.

The Tarrasch Principle at work?

If opportunistic, it is not foolishly opportunistic. In terms of my favoured chess analogy it is the Tarrasch principle at work. This suggests that strategically you should act because you want to, or because you have to, but not simply because you have the option. Mr Brown acted because he wanted to, perhaps also because he judged it was better now than waiting for a more favourable time, and in that sense because he had to, or miss a promising opportunity. In other words, it was not just because it was an available option open to him.