Monday, 21 June 2010

Why we're (secretly) supporting Slovenia

Regular readers might think that even the Next Left blog may have risked being distracted by the World Cup. This guest post from Elizabeth FitzGerald and Sophie Bisson, who have nothing against the beautiful game, argues that putting England out of their World Cup misery on Wednesday would at least get football off the front pages and the budget's spending cuts on them.


Don't get us wrong we are football mad; our credentials include a season ticket at Manchester City (the only 'blues' we can support!) a cassette version of 'World in Motion', and working at Bury FC whilst at college serving pies and bovril to grumpy old men. However, England really needed to win last Friday night, so we would now be looking at comfortably progressing to the next stage.

On Tuesday George Osbourne will present the Emergency Budget to Parliament. The two sets of cuts announced so far have included measures to end the Child Trust Fund, cut employment support and university places, and the cessation of a series of projects that were designed to improve public services or support the private sector. Current rumours include a rise in VAT and the end of the universal nature of some benefits; the latter another step towards class tension and a further erosion of support for the welfare state.

It is hard enough that all of this is happening with the usual summer distractions but for a public suffering political fatigue following an extended election the World Cup could prove a convenient distraction for the Coalition. The electorate did not vote for the Conservative agenda and are now expecting the Coalition to act in the national interest they promised. However, if we are not careful the country could awake from a World Cup summer to an unexpected hangover in the autumn. Children could return to schools without classroom support or school meals. Young adults visiting the jobcentre for the first time will not find the promised helping hand for those who needed it the most. The list will go on.

Unfortunately the people who are likely to be impacted most are unlikely to be glued to the left wing blogoshere or the comment sections of The Guardian following the budget so the rest of the media need to play their part.

In an article in The Guardian by Helen Pidd this weekend an unemployed father was interviewed who did not know the free swimming benefit for children was going to be withdrawn. Even in The Guardian, this was buried in the paper after the football. Whilst left-wing concerns have been marginalised by the media over the last year it is at least the media's job to report the news; left wing is not 'left field'!

Unfortunately with a BBC being 'man marked' by a government that wants to clip its wings and the Murdoch empire 'onside' for the same reasons, there is a strong chance that neither will be critical. And Wednesday's match may quickly overshadow the post-budget discussion of the budget on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

The World Cup is a brilliant spectacle that enriches our lives; it is a truly global event that removes us from our day-to-day concerns and replaces them with a thrilling drama that Hollywood would love to bottle.

However, we should lose sleep over the impending threat to our economy and our public services and not the football: criticising the millionaires making the cuts not the millionaires on the pitch.

If we are disappointed and proved right on Wednesday we won't apologise for secretly hoping England lose and the country quickly returns to reality. Bill Shankly said football was more than a matter of life and death; we would argue that our public services and fairness across society are more important than that.

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