Sunday, 27 February 2011

Gentlemen and Thugs

Why does the Welsh working class so love the game of those who gave it its martyrs at Tonypandy? Other than cricket (arguably - it is very much the summer game of the old mining communities in these parts, and the old pit villages often have remarkable grounds to reflect that fact), rugby is quite the least likely game for such implacable foes of the ruling class of yesteryear.

For that matter, why do the Boers, of all people, love rugby, of all sports? Mind you, the supposed Tories in the present Cabinet managed to love the Boers and their anti-British revenge republic, which would have been just as improbable if they had really been Tories at all. I understand that rugby was, and to an extent still is, a way of expressing a Basque or Catalan identity in south-western France, distinct from the football-loving French.

In Argentina and Chile, although it is a small minority pursuit in those countries, it is nevertheless a way of expressing longstanding ties with Britain, and especially with Wales in the Argentine case; there were far more British subjects living in Argentina than on the Falkland Islands at the time of the Falklands War, for example.

In Portugal, it is a way of expressing very longstanding ties with England specifically, like the use of the GMT and BST that Spain is also considering adopting, like the popularity of Cadbury's chocolate, and like the making available of the Azores in the Falklands War. In Australia and New Zealand, the link is obvious. In Italy, it goes back to Welshmen who went over there to work in the mines.

But in Wales, in South Africa, in the Scottish Borders - isn't it just a bit English, and posh English at that, for them? So, what is the story? But then, look at the cricket-playing (and the Episcopalianism) in the Scottish North East, in no sense an Anglicised area, but rather one where the SNP does well electorally.

For that matter, look at the popularity, real or otherwise, of football among the English middle classes since 1990, even though England has not won an international football tournament since 1966 (at home), when football was pretty much a working-class peculiarity, although they had only ever been taught it by public school curates who had wanted to give their young male parishioners something to do in their spare time.

There is a book in here somewhere. So much so that someone must surely have written it by now. Ian Jack, perhaps. Or David McKie. Someone like that, anyway. Does anyone know? It would be very much an expression of what Geoffrey Wheatcroft, reviewing McKie's Bright Particular Stars: A Gallery of Glorious British Eccentrics in this week's New Statesman, calls "the fogeyism of the left - "Radicals for cricket, railways and real ale"." Like the book of South Riding, without the made-for-television rutting.

Or like this blog, in fact. For only fogeyism can now satisfy the aspirations of the Left, and vice versa. Radical action is now necessary to conserve and restore cricket, railways and real ale. And no such action should be countenanced except in the furtherance of those and other such aims.


  1. It is what they fear most, the foogeyism of the left, the radicalism of cricket, railways and real ale, the Labour Party of, as Hitchens has it today, "Methodism, temperance and the Band of Hope ... the bit that New Labour got rid of". That is why the people who hate you do hate you. You should be very proud.

  2. I certainly am.

    The nascent Labour Movement's bringing together of strands rooted and organised in Anglicanism, Catholicism, Nonconformity and the Church of Scotland was as remarkable, and even more so for the time, as its not unrelated bringing together of strands within aristocratic or semi-aristocratic Toryism, bourgeois Liberalism, and the organised working class (variously Radical Liberal or Tory-populist at least as much as anything else), all in successful prevention of a Marxist revolution in one of the two countries that Marx himself deemed most likely to have one.

    Yes, when I say that, then certain people really, really, REALLY hate me. And yes, that makes me very, very, very proud indeed.

  3. Keep up the fight on the present Cabinet's ties to South Africa and how anti-British that regime was.

  4. Oh, depend on it.

    With its Voortrekker flag and constitution, and with its memorial to Hitler, David Cameron, George Osborne and, especially, Michael Gove would have fought for it against Britain if called upon to do so.

    As at least Osborne and, especially, Gove would today for the state created by Irgun and Lehi.