John Woodcock: Olympics have not made PM a winner

The superb Olympics have re-energised the nation, and the onus is now on politicians to make sure what Britain has created does not slip away.

John Woodcock: The PM misjudged his tone on the school sports issue
John Woodcock: The PM misjudged his tone on the school sports issue

This was a fortnight in which Westminster was completely out of most people's minds, yet winners and losers have emerged.

Boris Johnson is on the up. He made sure he led from the front as the capital shone and is riding the crest of a wave, aided by the willingness of the press to build him up as a potential challenger to David Cameron.

But the immediate political legacy from the Games of Johnson's old Etonian rival is mixed at best.

The awkwardness of a staged photo in front of the TV can be waved away as a Number 10 media adviser taking their eye off the ball at a time of national celebration. More worrying is the way the Prime Minister got the tone so wrong for what ought to have been a simple announcement on supporting school sport, one of the brief moments when politics penetrated people's consciousness during the Games.

On one level, anything any politician said or did was eclipsed by the wonderful moments our sporting heroes created. But Cameron's off-key attack on the 'prizes for all' culture of school sport matters, for two reasons.

Firstly, the nation is genuine about wanting to harness the spirit Britain has shown in bucketloads through the Games to generate lasting change. That places a responsibility on the shoulders of those who have the opportunity to shape it; leaders who do not get the mood of the nation will be judged harshly.

Secondly, the level of scrutiny on the PM from both a sceptical public and his own disgruntled side means he cannot afford to screw up interventions.

Cameron will go into the autumn conference season less secure than at any point since those early, fleeting, days when it looked like Gordon Brown was going to have him for breakfast after taking the reins from Tony Blair.

At a time when blood is pumping through the veins of a country re-energised by its Olympic success, the PM must show he can get his finger back on the pulse.

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

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.

News by email...