UNLIKE those phoney football fans Tony Blair and David Cameron who once occupied 10 Downing Street, Theresa May’s interest in cricket – and devotion to one Geoffrey Boycott – is genuine.
Fair play that she was at Lord’s when England’s players held their nerves in last Sunday’s World Cup final against New Zealand. She would probably have been blamed by some if they had lost.
And Eoin Morgan’s side looked genuinely pleased when they were greeted by Mrs May at a special 10 Downing Street reception on Monday night and allowed their host to lift the trophy. “They are a team that reflects the very best of modern Britain and a team that plays like no other in the world,” she declared.
Yet, while she will leave 10 Downing Street with one positive memory of her premiership, the regret is Mrs May – and her party – did not apply the lessons that Morgan’s men did to such brilliant effect.
Small in stature and softly-spoken, Morgan left no one in any doubt that he was in charge whenever the team stepped on to the field of play. May lost that advantage during the 2017 election and never recovered. Dissenters were not tolerated – hard-hitting batsman Alex Hales, a world-beater on his day, became persona non grata over his disciplinary record and reported philandering. Hero of the hour Ben Stokes, no stranger to the courts, was tamed. Yet May ended up indulging rebels – her embattled chief whip Julian Smith said it has been the most ill-disciplined Cabinet ever.
England did not panic when two bad results left the team in danger of failing to qualify for the semi-finals. One behind-closed-door team meeting settled any differences of opinion. Compare this with a Government which lost control of events at the first sign of trouble and a Cabinet that leaked hourly.
There was attention to detail. Even when the final went to a deciding Super Over, Morgan’s tactics never faltered while fielder Jason Roy, and wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, stayed calm as they executed the World Cup-winning run-out. Again, contrast this with a lack of planning Brexit ahead of EU summits – David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary, ended up being mocked for turning up for talks with no plan.
And then the diversity of the England squad who were born far and wide before making this country their home. An Ireland-born captain; New Zealand-born all rounder; South Africa-born batsman; a West Indian superstar and two British-born Muslims.
As Morgan said, he didn’t need “the luck of the Irish” because “we had Allah with us as well” – reference to a conversation that he had with Yorkshire-born spin bowler Adil Rashid and Moheen Ali. The response also hit Jacob Rees-Mogg, the arch Brexiteer, for six after he tweeted: “A d..n close run thing, we clearly don’t need Europe to win... #CricketWorldCupFinal.” Evidence of how the more xenophobic see everything through the narrow prism of Brexit, the regret is that the outgoing PM did not follow the lead of her cricketing heroes. If she’d done so, she may not have been left politically stumped.
THE case for the Northern Powerhouse Minister being promoted to the Cabinet – and being subject to regular scrutiny by MPs and a select committee – was reaffirmed at business questions on Tuesday.
Even though more than 75 questions were posed to the business team headed by Greg Clark, just three were answered by Jake Berry whose Northern Powerhouse remit has been added to this brief by Theresa May. One was on Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramic valley enterprise zone. One was on transport links to the South West – I suppose reference to North Devon could have confused some – and the third was about his dual role as High Street Minister.
FURTHER justification for a Cabinet minister championing the North came when Boris Johnson, the Tory leadership frontrunner, started talking about building new housing alongside “fantastic transport infrastructure”.
A laudable policy given so many towns and housing estates have few, if any, rail and bus connections, he then cited London’s second Crossrail line – and the proposed extension to the Bakerloo Line on the Tube – as the best examples where this policy would work. What a surprise.
TREASURY Chief Secretary Liz Truss – the woman refusing to visit Leeds to talk about funding for the city’s flood defences – will say, and do, anything in the hope that Boris Johnson makes her Chancellor.
Introducing him at the final Tory leadership hustings, she declaredy: “Boris Johnson put London on the map.” Really? Given the capital has over 2,000 years of history, either her man is a political dinosaur like no other – he is 55 – or Truss needs some geography lessons.
THERE is one person well qualified to assess the leadership merits of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – international athletics supremo Seb Coe who grew up in Sheffield. He worked with both when organising the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics – Johnson was the then Mayor of London while Hunt was Culture Secretary in his first Cabinet job. If only he was willing to break his silence...
IN defending her track record on transport investment in the North, Theresa May responded at Prime Minister’s Questions to Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff by saying: “We are seeing a difference, and we are making a difference.”
So are we. Every late train here is now associated with her failure to sack Chris Grayling as Transport Secretary. One of the great political mysteries, perhaps Mrs May will explain her misplaced loyalty one day.