John Woodcock: Olympics goes beyond politics

Since the UK won the bid back in 2005, politicians have been the handmaidens to the Olympic extravaganza that is just about to start.

Woodcock: The Olympics is not about politics at all
Woodcock: The Olympics is not about politics at all

A few weeks ago, I wrote that the public was in no mood to give politicians any credit for the Olympics, or much else for that matter.

That largely remains the case, though successful delivery of what will be a spellbinding event may yet thaw some people's attitude towards their Government.

But unfortunately for hapless ministers the reverse is not true: the elected people at the top are definitely not insulated from the blame if things go wrong.

Take the G4S debacle. On the face of it, responsibility for this latest shambles lies squarely with the head of the firm; Nick Buckles has taken a battering. Yet the Home Secretary has found herself under intense pressure to explain precisely when she was made aware of the problem and why she did not act sooner.

Labour figures are right to balance their responsibilities through this special period. On the one hand, the ability to hold ministers to account across the despatch box in the House of Commons is unique and it would be an abdication of responsibility if we failed to probe when ministers have a case to answer.

Equally though, the whole country wants the Olympics to be a storming success and Labour is proud of the part the last government played in helping make it a reality. Former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell remains right in the thick of delivering the Games because that is the kind of person she is, but she is also a reminder that this is an event that goes way beyond party politics.

In fact, occupants of the recently vacated Westminster bubble cannot fail to recognise what is obvious to the public: the greatest show on earth is not about politics at all. Ministers are on hand to help things run as smoothly as they can in a city now bursting at the seams; they and their predecessors will be part of the reckoning once the athletes have gone home; but they know their job is to get their heads down so the country can sit back and enjoy the show.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown.

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