Don’t you hate these prima donnas in the modern political game? The way they feign injury. The constant appealing and coordinated attempts to get their opponent taken out of the picture. It’s all the height of bad manners and terribly cynical and anti-social. It must have a terrible influence on young minds.
You want the ref to say to them: “Now come on love, if you’re really that soft, what are you doing out here in the first place?”
But oh no, they’re big stars, so that’s not going to happen. Which is why we see players like Emily Thornberry regularly put on a massive act, at the Question Time arena, trying to convince everyone that Peter Hitchens has just kicked her in the Fallopians. Many kids will have watched Thornberry’s confected injury, and noted David Dimbleby’s lack of intervention, concluding that this is now a legitimate tactic in the game.
Thornberry should have been booked for simulation. I’d have sent her off, as a lesson to others. Sadly though, referee Dave Dimbleby is what’s known as a homer. On one hand, he interrupts constantly to break up the flow of the game when the away team are mounting a challenge. But lefty journalist Mehdi Hasan gets away with all kinds of nonsense and he’s always given extra time for his rants, where he blames everything on minorities, such as the 3 per cent of the population who buy The Daily Mail who, he’s convinced himself, are responsible for all the problems in the world.
Any decent referee might ask Hasan why he described most of the audience as cattle. It would only be fair to allow him to explain himself, but he gets away with these foul off the ball incidents and over-the-top tackles.
I quite like the referee Andrew Neil, who seems to have a better feeling for the flow of the game. Having said that, he does love a whistle doesn’t he? The best referees, they say, are the ones you don’t notice. Nobody could say that about House of Commons Speaker John Bercow. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s put a replica kit on sale at the House of Commons club shop with BERCOW writ large into the ermine on the back.
As ever, the tricks of the professionals have filtered down to the amateur tournaments. This week I was ambushed by an aggrievance of social justice fans, over a harmless (I thought) column about the lack of women working in IT. Many readers took offence at the suggestion that maybe, I don’t know, a lot of women don’t want to work in programming. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my attempted joke outlining female superiority in three different areas of communication followed by a tongue-in-cheek punchline of “how much more do they want” was taken literally. Half a dozen wrote to my employer and tweeted to the effect I was, as the football chant goes, getting “sacked in the morning.” Ironic really, given the article was about how to encourage more people to get work in my industry.
Still, as ex-pros would say, if you try to tackle an issue you have to be careful these days. These are professionals in a very modern game and they’ll feel entitled to go down at the most innocuous challenge. Meanwhile their teammates will crowd round the referee arguing that you’re on a third offence (baseless charges of sexism, anti-progression and xenophobia in my case), demanding that you be removed from the field.
It’s such a shame there’s no punishment for simulation.