Inside Lines: Sport and the Election

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Prescott packs punch as likely new overlord

Prescott packs punch as likely new overlord

What will 5 May do for sport? Will there be a new sports minister after Thursday's election? And will there be a new home for sport in another government department? We should know the answers by the weekend, but whatever happens you can be certain any moves will be made with an eye on that other election, for the 2012 Olympics, almost exactly two months later on 6 July. Assuming he, and his government, are returned, Richard Caborn hopes to be in Singapore, but sooner rather than later there will be a new name on the portfolio he has carried longer than any previous sports minister since Denis Howell.

The Bradford South MP and Manchester United fan Gerry Sutcliffe, 51, a former captain of the Parliamentary football team, is tipped by ex-sports minister Tony Banks, who is about to become Lord Banks (but not, he insists, of Stamford Bridge) to replace Caborn. Andy Burnham, Andy Reed, David Hanson and Clare Ward are also in the frame. But who will be the big cheese? With Tessa Jowell also likely to be moved on, sport could be shifted from its present uncomfortable residency with culture and media to health, education or even, as Caborn himself has been hinting, to the office of the deputy prime minister.

Significantly, John Prescott, Caborn's best mate, already has two sports advisers as well as his two Jags. Caborn told sports leaders last week it would "make sense" for sport to move in with Big John if London wins the Olympic bid, because of the huge amount of planning involved.

So, from DCMS to ODPM? Sport holds its breath.

Blue riband, not red tape, is Tory pledge

Conscious that his captain accepts that the Conservative team go into Thursday's big match 2-0 down, Hugh Robertson, the dapper ex-Army officer who is their new voice of sport, knows his tactic must be to attack.

Should they lose, he will keep putting the boot in, as his predecessor, Lord Moynihan, did so effectively. But should he be the next sports minister, he vows Labour's red tape will be replaced by a Tory blue riband bureaucracy, unfurling an umbrella body, the British Sports Foundation, a one-stop shop that would reduce burgeoning bureaucracy, scrap all regional bodies, create an independent doping agency, halt plans to tax an Olympic Lottery and give all schoolchildren two hours of after-school sport with a local club. Is sport thinking what we're thinking? Promises, promises... but his is that he will deliver.

Says Robertson: "The priority will be to back London's Olympic bid but also to change the Lottery system, so that sports bodies are given the money directly and allowed to get on with getting results."

Lib Dems want kids dancing to sport's tune

The Lib Dems would also introduce a British Sports Foundation, claiming the Tories pinched the idea from them. But they would go further and abolish the quangos, beginning with Sport England ("expensive and unnecessary"). They would promote a new range of sports activities in schools "such as taekwondo and dance". Their culture and sport spokesman, Don Foster, says: "We need to turn kids back on to sport, and halt the 70 per cent drop-out rate by encouraging links with clubs." They would also push for a review of sports on terrestrial TV's protected list, urging the restoration of Test cricket, and make it safer for children to walk or cycle to school as part of an anti-obesity policy. "That alone would save the nation the equivalent in weight of 30,000 John Prescotts."

The political pairing of Robert Kilroy Silk and the black ex-boxer who is the sports spokesman for his breakaway Veritas party is one of the election's oddities.

Winston McKenzie, the 48-year-old elder brother of former champions Duke and Clinton (and uncle of Norwich striker Leon), who fought as a lightweight in the Seventies, says of the axed TV inquisitor: "Some may have called him racist, but he's the only politician who has given me a chance." McKenzie says Veritas would "start a sporting revolution by giving sport back to the kids". Kilroy Silk's former alma mater, the UK Independence Party, which promoted another fight figure, manager Frank Maloney, as their London mayoral candidate, want a referendum on 2012. The Greens are similarly cool on the Games, which they don't think would be as green as they are painted, according to their London Assembly member Jenny Jones. "Good for tourism, but what will they do for the little old lady whose council can't afford to repair a malfunctioning lock on her front door?"

So will the sporting vote matter? If it does, evidence suggests the Conservatives will woo most with a manifesto that has similar punter-friendly packaging to London's ill-fated Olympic incentives.

But if you fancy some fringe frivolity, the Monster Raving Loonies would make synchronised farting and cheese rolling Olympic events (at the same time?) while Britain's under-fire shooters have the doubftful backing of the BNP, who want to see a gun in every home to keep the burglars at bay. In election week failed PM John Major (who would have been a better sports minister) gives the keynote conference speech to the CCPR who, we hear, may be parting company with chief executive Margaret Talbot.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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