Out to another Labour fundraiser last night, this one for my local constituency, Holborn and St Pancras. And not for the first time I found myself extolling the virtues of sport as an inspiration for politics.
Eg – ‘show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser’ (John McEnroe). I also drew attention to Alex Ferguson’s aftermatch interview in the wake of yesterday’s defeat at Chelsea.
The interviewer suggested to the Manchester United manager that despite losing (to a goal scored from a free kick that should never have been given) he could take satisfaction from the fact that his team played so well. Fergie’s look said it all. ‘What planet are you on, man?’ His words were a little more polite, but they made the same point – er, we lost, so no, it was not one of our best performances.
I also made the point that in sport, if you go out onto the pitch wondering how you are going to handle defeat, or whether you will get dropped from the team in the event of that defeat, then you’ve lost already.
So definitely lessons for politics there. Too many Labour people are talking and behaving as though the game is over, when whatever the polls and the media say, it is not.
Because everywhere you go, you get the same message – that whatever problems people may have with Labour, they are not rushing to embrace the Tories.
I gave my usual recipe for a political campaign – defend the record, attack your opponents and win the arguments on the forward policy agenda. On all three, Labour are stronger than the Tories, provided the party from top to bottom gets out on the pitch and plays like they think they can win.
Manchester United are now five points behind Chelsea in the Premier League. But does anyone think for one second that Fergie or his players woke up this morning thinking that the title is lost? No, they didn’t. And nor should Labour think the election is lost, because doubts about the Tories are growing, just at the time they ought to be thinking about sealing the deal.