‘Sledging’ – close fielders throwing insults at batsmen in order to put them off – is one of the most unpleasant things to have entered cricket in recent years. Last week the English captain Joe Root responded to a homophobic piece of sledging by the West Indian bowler Shannon Gabriel – implying he was gay – not by protesting his masculinity, but with the words: ‘Don’t use that as an insult … there’s nothing wrong with being gay.’ What a perfect answer by the young Yorkshireman! He’s been roundly commended for it, and Gabriel fined and banned for a number of matches. I hope the Australians were watching. (They’re usually credited – maybe unfairly – with bringing ‘sledging’ into the game.)
Otherwise it has been good to see the once-great Windies back to their terrifying fast-bowling best. (They beat England two matches to one.) The cricket world needs them.
In the world of politics the sledging still goes on. Currently it mainly consists of ‘anti-semitic’ smears against the Labour Party, which are descending to an even sub-Australian level of ‘low’. What the latest Tory defections will mean for British politics, and for the ‘Brexit’ debate in particular, is unpredictable. If the new ‘centre’ party that might be emerging can put a stop to the swivel-eyed Tories’ ‘hard’ Brexit, or even to Brexit per se, then it might almost be worth the damage being done by the defections on the Labour side. Almost.
Who is to say what will come out of this? It seems more potentially unsettling for British politics as a whole – the party system, perhaps even our voting system (hopefully) – than the old SDP breakaway. The three ex-Tory women I thought spoke well at their press conference; unlike the ex-Labour malcontents yesterday. Poverty and inequality were two of their targets. I didn’t get the impression that they were two of the Gang of Seven’s (now Eight. And tomorrow?)….
There seems to be the basis now for a new centre party if there are more defections from both sides, which are obviously being coordinated. But the centre will be crowded, and the main beneficiaries of this still look like the Conservatives.
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