Some conservatives have been accused of ‘politicising’ the Olympics by daring to say anything negative about the opening ceremony. Having begun by attacking an obscure back-bench MP, these accusations are now being aimed at Conservatives in the cabinet. Yet it is not conservatives, but the organisers of the opening ceremony who politicised the event.
Naturally, those who agreed with the political bent on display rejoiced in it and continue to do so. Take the Labour Minister for Social Justice and Local Government in the Welsh Assembly, Carl Sargent who tweeted on the night:
This is the best Labour Party political broadcast I’ve seen in a while.
Working class history, multi-cultural, nhs, cnd, gay kissing. Well done comrade Boyle! Bet Dave is wriggling!
The Labour MP Paul Flynn blogged his agreement with Sargent:
Mayor Boris could not take it. He wept. What else was left to do? Boris is strangled by his pre-event hyperbole. He was at it again today spewing wild meaningless superlatives hoping to obliterate the eloquent messages of Danny Boyle on NHS, CND, war futility.
Flynn went on to describe how:
Wonderfully progressive socialist sentiments and ideas were smuggled into the opening romp. The Tory Olympic twosome were tricked into praising the Trojan Horse. Cameron and Boris could not condemn the wonders that they had praised to the skies 12 hours earlier.
At the same time as Carl Sargent was tweeting his comments, the backbench Conservative MP Aidan Burley tweeted his opinion that the opening ceremony was ‘leftie multicultural crap.’ Mr Burley’s previous form in the public eye does not make him seem to me an admirable figure. It is so obvious that it hardly needs stating that he was wrong to have stayed at a stag-party where someone was dressed as a Nazi and chanting ‘Hitler’. But I doubt that he, any more than Prince Harry, actually is a Nazi. However, Burley’s past form and his Friday tweets made him the source for a classic political bait-and-switch.
Firstly it gave certain left-wingers the opportunity to imply that the conservative party is actually the Nazi party. Understandably fearing even a tangential connection to a Nazi-themed stag-party, this made certain conservatives go even further out of their way to distance themselves not just from Mr Burley but from anything he tweeted. So they praised the opening ceremony even more lavishly than they might have done before.
This is a demonstration of what happens when you stop being willing to explain or defend your own positions. For instance, there are legitimate positions between complete hostility to the NHS and the jarring and fantastical cult-worship on display the other night. It might also be possible to explain that the relationship which CND had with the Communist Party of Britain and the KGB during the Cold War makes it a wholly unfit organisation for national celebration. But few British conservatives any longer defend their positions. So much easier to just go with the flow. And so, as we have seen over recent days, a radical left-wing orthodoxy becomes ever more entrenched until it becomes such a form of holy-writ that even being found not-guilty of liking it becomes wholly unacceptable.
Now the crime of non-agreement-with-the-
This was not British history as Michael Gove sees it. There was an acknowledgement of the suffering of war, respect for fallen warriors without triumphalism. The centrepiece NHS sign was a worthy celebration of the greatest single political reform of the last century. The CND symbol was formed by the dancers. This is history from the perspective of Classic Labour.
Indeed. Yet what are those British conservatives who have been furiously dismissing exactly this claim for the last two days going to say about it now? To be clear: there were wonderful parts of the ceremony. There cannot have been anybody who did not thrill to the Queen’s scene with James Bond. But the claim that the ceremony did not become highly political is nonsense.
If in doubt, consider the following thought-experiment. Among the people honoured with the task of carrying the Olympic flag was the left-wing campaigner Shami Chakrabarti. The stadium voiceover announced that this was because of her ‘integrity.’ The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton is some years Chakrabarti’s senior and I would say rather demonstrably her superior in achievement and ‘integrity’. Yet I do not believe Professor Scruton was asked to be one of the Olympic flag-bearers. Nor was Ayaan Hirsi Ali invited to be honoured for her integrity. Or Margaret Thatcher. Why not? To ask the question is to answer it: all are recognised, like Chakrabarti, to be highly political figures.
As it happens I do not think any political figure – from any political direction – should have been involved in the ceremony. But the inclusion of Chakrabarti shows, as surely as the inclusion of Scruton, Hirsi Ali or Thatcher alone would have done, that the organisers were celebrating a particular political direction. This would have been obvious even without the CND logo and so on. As it is, though most people will remember the evening for some good jokes and a couple of stand-out performances, many people like Messrs Sargent and Flynn will continue to see it as a demonstration of the wholesale triumph of their particular political world-view. How sad that many British conservatives are now helping to prove them right.