Mitt Romney broke the first rule of politics: he told truth. If it wasn’t close to the bone, his comment that London isn’t ready for the Olympics wouldn’t have touched a nerve. As it is, the “joke” was a boot straight in Cameron’s funny bone.
The Olympics is, of course, politically complex. It has all of the flag waving potential of a war – and all of the potential for fuck up. If the general rule is ‘three strikes and you’ve got a narrative’, then Cameron is now two down. First, G4S. It’s enough to break through the Olympic hype and get journo’s snooping for other cock up stories.
Second, Romney says London isn’t ready – effectively, that the government has failed. This, of course, is unfair – it isn’t actually a government error. But it’s a major story about the games not being a success. And after the first day – where it’s reported as a gaff – comes the day two story – how long till someone runs a report on whether he is, in fact, right.
Third – well, we know the transport system is going to break. If there are empty stadiums – if people can’t get to the biggest show on earth – that’ll be big news. But there seem to be a million other options: discussing it the other night, a group of friends were able to come up with a few potentials off the top of their heads: tales of limited cash machines, stories of security guards kicking people out for wearing non-approved brands, etc…
And if the story turns – if the narrative is the cock up – then the British media are relentless. They will dig out every tiny error, and they will hammer it for all it’s worth. And, whatever happens at an event this size, there will be cock ups – just look at what we’ve had already, and you’ve already got the Korean flag incident…
Thatcher famously rode out a recession with her Falklands invasion. Despite the fact that it was hardly a smooth ride, she was seen to do it well. Over the last few months, the story about this government has changed. They started out as nasty, posh, but – at least in the eyes of many, providing a clear direction, and a capability to deliver it. With Osborne’s last budget, then U-turns, and with the economy plundering, they are looking incompetent.
Last silly season, we had the phone hacking scandal and the riots. This summer, the government surely thought they had nailed down the circuses they needed to keep us quiet in what, to steal someone else’s line, became the Euro-Wimble-Juba-Tour-de-lympics. If we have a silly season of stories about how the government failed to deliver when the world was watching, what does this do for them.
Of course, if Britain feels under attack, we could ‘come together’ to stand up for ourselves. But if the Government end up being pinned with the blame, this could be a fun summer.