This one is for my Mum. She is not the only one to say ‘you haven’t been blogging much lately,’ but she is the only one who is my Mum. This is a new maternal criticism. She normally criticises me when she sees me on the telly without a tie (usually Andrew Neil’s fault because he and Michael Portillo try to be trendy on This Week.) She also has a pop every now and then because she thinks I exercise too much. And when I was in Downing Street she had a pop often, mainly telling me to get out because she didn’t like all the aggro I got, and the effect it had on her! (See diaries volume 4 in particular)
This is the first time she has taken me to task for not blogging. Like Fiona’s Mum, she has adapted to the Internet age pretty well, and sits tapping away at an iPad quite the thing. She doesn’t do twitter or facebook though, so the only way of knowing if I have updated my blog is to keep checking. Clearly, checking and seeing no change for day after day has annoyed her, and this won’t do.
So what to blog about, other than the fact that my Mum told me to do a blog? It is a funny thing this blogging business. There was a time when it was almost like shaving or brushing my teeth; it was something I had to do to get my brain into gear for the day, and force myself to keep abreast of what was happening in the world.
But every now and then I just lose the interest. It might be because I am depressed. It might be because I am travelling. This time it might be because I was – and still am – having troubles with the comments section of the website which means I have not been able to post comments for a while (being sorted, but I have not shouted yet). It is also because I popped over to France to follow a few stages of the Tour de France, and a combination of spectating, cycling, and meeting up with friends from the Tour, kept me busy, and distracted me from the kind of things I normally blog about. I have barely seen a newspaper or watched the news.
I know there has been a Royal birth, and his name is George. I know Nelson Mandela is still alive because I check every morning. I know the GDP figures were marginally better than expected and on that slim fact the Tories and their media lackeys have gone into overdrive. I know that there was a terrible train crash in Spain, and that Egypt and Syria continue to dominate the foreign news agenda for the wrong reasons. I know that Barcelona have a new manager and that Rooney and Suarez both want away. I know England are battering the Aussies, and Mickelson won the Open. Apart from that, I cannot claim to be as well-informed as usual.
So I thought I would blog about the Tour, but the political angle of Harriet Harman’s calling on the organisers to have a women’s tour alongside the men’s, which has met with a rather testy response from Tour supremo Christian Prudhomme, who I met recently alongside cycling legend Bernard Hinault in the incongruous setting of the Chelsea Flower Show.
I can remember a few years ago watching the women’s Tour when it went through Bedoin, and being really impressed. But the fact is that finding sponsors and support has not been easy, and it has not happened for a while. Also, the men’s Tour, which next year starts in the UK – hence Harriet’s intervention – is one of the biggest logistical operations in world sport. I can understand why the organisers, who do a pretty amazing job, do not want to add the complication of a women’s tour alongside.
I think it is perfectly justifiable for Harriet to call for a women’s Tour, and a laudable aim, but the appeal should also be to sponsors, broadcasters and the public.
Next year is going to be remarkable. I think the riders will be shocked both by the scenery and some of the hills in Yorkshire, and by the passion of the Brits for cycling these days. They saw something of it at the Olympics, but the Tour will be something else. On the back of that, women’s sport should agitate for the financial and public support they need to get what Harriet is asking for.
One year on from the Olympics, there is a lot of talk about legacy. There is a very mixed picture, as David Bond of the BBC pointed out in a rather good piece. The passion for sport is undimmed, but yet to be translated into the kind of facilities and participation numbers that really would indicate a generation had been inspired.
A year ago, I suggested that the only way truly to harness the legacy was to make Sport and Olympics Legacy, at least for a few years, a Cabinet position, with its own budget and ability to range across other relevant departments. I was told it was being met with some support in Number 10, but alas not by the man who really matters.
I see Tessa Jowell has said the same thing. Perhaps this is something Labour can make part of the next manifesto. It was a Labour government that helped bring the Games to London, and pave the way for the successful transition to their delivery under the coalition government. Harriet Harman is as well placed as anyone to elevate the position of sport within the political system, and perhaps it is a Labour government that could do that too. Among the many challenges facing a new Secretary of State for Sport could be the development of women’s road racing so that sponsors, broadcasters and public sit up and take notice.