Inside Lines: The party's over, but why has the PM missed a trick?


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The Independent Online

As the Olympic and Paralympic bandwagon rolls to a halt, it seems those who leapt aboard waving the flag at Westminster six weeks ago are already jumping off quicker than you can say Jacques Rogge.

Sport is back in the toy department as far as politicians are concerned. Or so it would appear from a ministerial reshuffle which now sees a new games mistress in charge of supervising the legacy of 2012 and the nation's fitness.

The appointment of Maria Miller to succeed Jeremy Hunt at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has sports chiefs scratching their heads, asking: "Who is she? What does she know about sport?"

The 47-year-old MP for Basingstoke's CV does not suggest any great interest in the subject (housing, education, media and Canada are listed as her specialities on her website). Could the Prime Minister not have found someone with at least a working knowledge of what goes on when the whistle blows? (Ken Clarke, now a minister without portfolio and a genuine sports lover, comes to mind). Or doesn't David Cameron care now that the gold dust has settled and the reflected glory fades?

At least Miller's predecessor knew his Arsenal from his elbow, having qualified as a junior football referee. Fortunately, Miller will still have the able and deservedly reappointed Sports Minister Hugh Robertson to hold her hand, though Cameron left it late to confirm his post.

Before Labour start pointing fingers, Miller's opposite number, one Harriet Harman, is hardly known for her sporting passion. And hands up who knows the identity of the Shadow Sports Minister? It's Clive Efford, MP for Eltham and a Millwall supporter.

Time he emerged from the shadows if sport is not to be relegated to Westminster's back benches.

No golden horse boxes

Gary Lineker OBE says he didn't deserve one, and Amir Khan wonders why he hasn't got one. We're talking gongs, of course. Apparently there will be plenty after all for Olympians and Paralympians following the great gold rush now that the PM decrees they should have their own honours list.

Doubtless among the recipients will be those equestrians who triumphed in both Games. But what about the horses? Not even a rosette, poor things.

At least Bryan Payne, the mayor of Holt in Norfolk, has backed a call for one of the town's postboxes to be painted gold in honour of the nine-year-old stallion Big Star, who is stabled there. Royal Mail are daubing postboxes gold in places associated with gold medal-winners and Big Star's rider, Nick Skelton, already has one in Alcester, Warwickshire, where he lives.

Says the mayor: "What's good for the rider should be good for the horse. Big Star's an athlete, albeit with four legs." No response received from Royal Mail – though it may well have got lost in the post.

Duck this one, Fred

So, Andrew Flintoff wants to be Britain's next heavyweight hope. The former England cricket captain says he is in training to make his ring debut at Manchester's MEN Arena on 30 November.

Apparently he is being mentored by Barry McGuigan, though the Board of Control must give him a ring test before issuing a licence and so far secretary Robert Smith says they haven't heard from him and there isn't a show scheduled for that date or venue. Supposedly it is the subject of a Sky documentary, though the bout itself is said to be televised by Frank Warren's rival channel BoxNation. How odd.

Flintoff, who has sparred with Ricky Hatton, is known to be a fight fan but he needs to be told that ducking bouncers is one thing, dodging right-handers another. Mind you, if it does happen he could have a ready-made opponent should Audley Harrison get whacked on the whiskers by British champion David Price next month. He would surely be ready to be clubbed over the head by Fred.