Leftwing disruption of sporting events: a proud tradition


2:04 pm - February 29th 2012

by Dave Osler    


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Emily Wilding Davison famously threw herself under the King’s horse at the 1913 Derby, in order to publicise the suffragette cause. She died in hospital a few days later. I truly hope her bravery will be suitably commemorated on its centenary next year.

But even at this distance in time, her name lives on, Emily’s List – the New Labour women’s network that helped around a dozen shoulder padded Blairites make it to Westminster – chose the appellation at least in part in Ms Davison’s honour.

Back in 1970, a radical young Liberal activist called Peter Hain initiated the Stop the 70 Tour campaign, which threatened to disrupt a series of test matches between England and an all white South African team. The tour was duly cancelled. Hain became a hero to the left, and ended up a New Labour cabinet minister.

Yesterday, Unite leader Len McCluskey told the Guardian that the union was considering peaceful civil disobedience at this summer’s Olympics. The defence of the NHS strikes me as being an issue of the same order of importance as votes for women and opposition to apartheid.

Yet his words have been condemned across the spectrum, from Baroness Warsi to Ken Livingstone. Even Ed Miliband has tweeted his outrage, branding McCluskey’s call as ‘unacceptable and wrong’.

It’s a good job Twitter wasn’t around in 1913 or 1970, I guess.

 

 

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


I’m not sure if Emily Davison could be referred to as Left Wing. Militant certainly, violent possibly, but Left Wing?

Peter Hain definitely furthered his cause by his disruption, but what about George Davis? A very successful sporting campaign.

Now we come to Unite, definitely not a Left Winger. Focus on special interest groups is much more right wing. Surely the Olympics are “The People’s Games” and should be supported by the left?

Brave of you to suggest that Emily Davison was Left Wing. Wikipedia would disagree, and I probably wouldn’t put the suffragette movement as Left Wing either.

As for Unite, I’m not sure if a special interest group campaigning against the wishes of the working class could be considered as Left Wing either.

1 – Yes, George Davis sprang to my mind as well. Not a terrifically high-minded disruption of a sporting event that. I suppose there’s always the Munich Olympics to be proud of instead.

I wondered how long it would be before there was a piece in Liberal Conspiracy – which seems to be more and more a mouthpiece for the Unions – defending Len McLusky.

Sunny – I’d greatly appreciate if you told us all if LC recieves any funding from the unions…..I doubt you will though.

and are strikes that are wildly unpopular with the voting public and a gift to the Tories also a proud left-wing tradition?

5 – Um, yes?

The ruling classes are rubbing their hands together with glee in anticipation at making a few extra million over the Olympics. Landlords are putting rents up to coincide with the Olympics and some tenants are having to move out because of this. in that context it’s only right that tube drivers and other Unions put the squeeze on the system at this crucial time. Ed’s wrong to criticise Unions over this , without criticising the rentier classes too.

Stopping a tour by an apartheid national sports team is a bit different to the prats who disrupted the Grand National in 1993 and ruined the whole event.

That said, some protests about something or other might not be a bad idea. But not to disrupt the games themselves. I wouldn’t support public transport strikes or anything.
But maybe some crusties could ”Occupy Stratford” or something and give a little sideline interest news story.

Honestly I think it would be worth peacefully sabotaging the Olympics to save the NHS. But of course it’s never as simple as ‘We do this, and this is the result’. Really the option to civil disobedience the games to a standstill ought to be on the cards though, just because it’s a target that the Tories really care about.

I think if the pro-NHS lobby just made the argument, “Withdraw the NHS bill or the Olympics will suffer” then a result could be had.

I have no problem with Mr McCluskey throwing himself under a horse, or perhaps in the way of the odd discus or javelin?

On the other hand I would prefer him to stick around and let EdM reap the rewards!

I think if the pro-NHS lobby just made the argument, “Withdraw the NHS bill or the Olympics will suffer” then a result could be had.

Because everyone loves a blackmailer.

12. the a&e charge nurse

[12] “Because everyone loves a blackmailer” – would you say the same about the profiteers seeking to screw as much as possible from the games spectators?

13. the a&e charge nurse

dear, oh dear, meant for Tim J @ [11]

14. James from Durham

I don’t see that any sport is much to do with the people these days. It’s all about big money not to mention the purveyors of rare and exotic “herbs”.

McCluskey should realise that a lot of people may not even notice if the games are cancelled!

Maybe the left should throw them selves under trains cars and buses in the spirit of 1913 and radical change for something! If that be toy shops or the colour of toilet paper, just do it!

In other news: Ed Miliband denounces calls to bring down the Government by stealing artificial limbs from wounded soldiers and pooing on photographs of the Queen.

would you say the same about the profiteers seeking to screw as much as possible from the games spectators?

Yes, I doubt they’re terribly popular either.

I can’t help but think that threatening disruption to the Olympics is a brilliant way to shoot yourself in the foot. Even assuming you get the support to do this, you become unpopular, but it is likely that the amount of support in any union for an obviously ‘party-pooper’ attitude is lower than for general activities anyway, so you may well get the headlines of trying to disrupt things for your own political ends (and sorry, but the NHS campaign is politics – it is hardly about human rights after all…) and not even achieve the disruption, which not only makes you unpopular but also look stupid or irrelevant.

I do sometimes wonder quite whether left-wing leaders believe that they just have to lead for the masses to follow or something, because there seems to be little effort to engage with the people here. And before anyone brings up the profiteers (and don’t get me started on the exclusivisity of the IOF – clearly anti-free-market) just consider this; how many of those who attend the events or just are in London will buy the overpriced products of the profiteers – the hatred you (and I) feel for them is not going to be a potent political weapon you know. It certainly would not be perceived in the same way as unions trying to disrupt the games (which are international) over an issue of national politics.

Basically, if this is more than grandstanding, it just shows an incredible lack of common sense. Dave shows a couple of examples of political protest at sporting events, which may (or may not) have worked – but in each case these were about something far more serious than the NHS, the right to vote.

The precise mechanism whereby disrupting the games enables a defence of the NHS is, what exactly ? It’s a pity somebody didn’t disrupt the IOC decision making process so that we didn’t get the bloody stupid thing in the first place.
@12
Nobody is being forced to attend the games and pay exorbitant prices. If people are daft enough to do that then I can’t get too worked up about the supposed blackmail involved.

I do sometimes wonder quite whether left-wing leaders believe that they just have to lead for the masses to follow or something, because there seems to be little effort to engage with the people here.

Conquest’s Third Law of Politics.
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/65827/conquests-laws/john-derbyshire

Ed Milliband distancing himslef from Len McLuskey is a bit like Basil Brush distancing himself from Mr. Roy ( or whoever it is now ). Lefties always hate sport, they cannot make it equal ,they try at schools replacing football with unisex hoop spinning.

22. Chaise Guevara Travel Edition

@ Paul Newman

You do realise that a single example of a left-wing sports fan would prove that you’re talking out of your arse again?

Well seeing that this dishonest govt that promised no changes to the NHS, and claimed that we are all in it together, and is now providing slave labour for their corporate backers has to fall back on ” patriotism” to sell it’s agenda why not strike.

A cry of patriotism is always the last refuge of a scoundrel. And this lying , dishonest govt is full to the brim of scoundrels.

Surely selling off school playing fields was the greatest distruption to sport we have ever seen? Throwing yourself under a horse? Pah! A whole generation of kids lost to sport, that really takes the cake.

” Emily Wilding Davison famously threw herself under the King’s horse at the 1913 Derby…”

She did not throw herself under the King’s horse. The King’s horse who survived the collision ran into her when she wandered onto the course. Highly unlikely that in the speed of a horse race that she could have distinguished the King’s colours from any other horse. It looks like she was going onto the course to make a protest and misjudged the timing and probably never seen the horse. Judge for yourselves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVrlLKAR1S0

Any Unite members working on getting us ready for the Olympics? Building stadiums etc? Down tools. Bring it on.

Yesterday, Unite leader Len McCluskey told the Guardian that the union was considering peaceful civil disobedience at this summer’s Olympics. The defence of the NHS strikes me as being an issue of the same order of importance as votes for women and opposition to apartheid.

As I recall, opposition to apartheid meant boycotting South African sport teams. Unless you think it is foreigners in general that are out to destroy the NHS disrupting the Olympics is as fuckwitted a protest as I can imagine.

The Oxbridge Boat Race on the other hand…

Does the ‘proud tradition’ include the Munich massacre?

29. modernity's ghost

Off topic:

Will Liberal Conspiracy be running a post on Jenny Tonge’s comments?

1@JC

“Surely the Olympics are “The People’s Games” and should be supported by the left?”

Sorry are back in 1948?

Please see http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/02/29/leaked-the-video-olympics-authorities-want-banned/#comment-361627

– the Olympic organising committe are busy pushing little people around to safeguard the interests of big businesses.

MG: Tonge’s comments are wrong, in that supporting Israel is far less in America’s strategic interests than “aircraft carrier in the Middle East” would imply. More driven by “beacon of democracy ” / “enemy of enemy” / “powerful domestic political lobby”, in whatever mix of the three suits your own beliefs.

However, the fact that she’s lost the whip for saying something a bit ignorant and simplistic about Middle Eastern politics, which is what *almost everyone who talks about Middle Eastern politics* does *almost all of the time*, is absolutely stark-staring gibberingly bonkers.

31 Just proves those of us who say there is a pro Israeli lobby both here and in the US that will not tolerate any criticism of the state of Israel. Very bad for freedom.

33. So Much For Subtlety

31. john b

However, the fact that she’s lost the whip for saying something a bit ignorant and simplistic about Middle Eastern politics, which is what *almost everyone who talks about Middle Eastern politics* does *almost all of the time*, is absolutely stark-staring gibberingly bonkers.

Yeah but it is not a one-off offense is it? It is more like getting an Oscar for a crap film because the Academy wants to recognise your life’s work. Tonge has form. Enough form that no one can think that her comment was merely a bit ignorant and simplistic.

It is more like getting an Oscar for a crap film because the Academy wants to recognise your life’s work.

I like the metaphor and I suspect there’s a strong element of that.

Still weird though – much as I hate to agree with Sally, I can’t imagine a scenario where a backbench peer who was known to go off on sporadic rants against the states of France, Russia or New Zealand would lose the whip for one.

I can’t imagine a scenario where a backbench peer who was known to go off on sporadic rants against the states of France, Russia or New Zealand would lose the whip for one.

But then, you don’t have significant neighbour states saying “France shall be wiped off the map” or “Drive the New Zealanders to the sea”. That is what makes the European support for destruction of Israel more disconcerting than any random state-bashing: the attempt for having a big war to destroy the Israelis is still real and in earnest.

36. So Much For Subtlety

34. john b

Still weird though – much as I hate to agree with Sally, I can’t imagine a scenario where a backbench peer who was known to go off on sporadic rants against the states of France, Russia or New Zealand would lose the whip for one.

You can lose the whip for one single bad joke about Pakistanis. I bet no one, at least no Tory, would be allowed to retain the whip if they made a single comment about wiping Jamaica off the map.

It’s a nice idea for leftists to try and martyr themselves for the cause of resisting NHS reform, but I’m not sure you’ve thought through the execution very well.

It’s one thing to throw yourself in front of a horse at the Derby, but not sure it would have the desired effect during the Olympic Dressage event;

I suspect that the participants for the Shooting event are too good at their sport to accidentally dispatch a militant who pops their head up on the target range;

Javelin is a possibility as there is a delay after it being thrown when a trade unionist could dash and position themselves under the descending spear. But todays militant trade unionists are sadly lacking in the requisite athletic prowess.

Polo would have been your best bet, but that has sadly been discontinued as an Olympic sport :(

Another example of the best leftist ideas being thwarted by reality :(

The problem with this action is that it sets a bad precedent that anyone can hold the Olympics to ransom for more money. It’s not wrong and I would never make it illegal but it makes you look like a bit of a twerp frankly.

As a private sector example, what would you say if the Union of Bank Employees threatened to go on strike and leave cash machines not working and banks closed during the Olympics if government regulations weren’t scrapped?

Defence against the ‘reform’ of the NHS the same as the campaigns for female suffrage and against apartheid??

?!

Do you want to be taken seriously..?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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