What about Redknapp?

Hodgson will pay the price for not being the chosen candidate of sportswriters.

Roy Hodgson is a dead man walking already. 

Look at the photos of him being driven to Wembley in the past couple of days and you’ll see a childlike gleam of excitement in his eyes. It’s as if he couldn’t believe that his day would come, yet he’s so delighted that it is. “Me, the manager of England!” he seems to be saying to himself. 
 
But that seemed to have gone already by yesterday’s first press conference, where the predictable questions began. Why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? Why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? And why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? 
 
Never underestimate a wounded sportswriter. These people are valued by the knowledge and contacts they have, and they were all blindsided by the FA’s decision to go for Hodgson instead of Redknapp. It left them looking like the clueless bunch of sheep they really are, and they didn’t like it. 
 
No-one gave them the steer they wanted, so they behaved as a pack, telling their editors that they had the inside info and they knew what the decision would be. There was only one obvious choice – Harry Redknapp, the People’s Favourite, England’s Rosie 47, with his deflated whoopee cushion face, a man who would have needed a half-rolled-down car window to be brought to all press conferences to add that authentic touch. 
 
They were wrong, and now they look stupid. Hodgson will pay the price for not being their chosen candidate. 
 
And so it began. There were four questions about Redknapp at the press conference, though no-one asked the one that really mattered: Why on earth didn’t you pick the person we told you to? Over the past few days, Redknapp has been elevated to great status, to the level of Brian Clough, a man who won the European Cup twice (with players he could afford, it might be noted), and should have gone to the UEFA cup final as well, but for a bribed referee. 
 
Well, Redknapp’s not that good, but he’s not that bad either. It was probably a close decision. Hodgson hasn’t won a cabinet full of trophies during his managerial career either, but it was probably his experience in tournament football that tipped the vote his way. 
 
The first whispers of dissent from Hodgson’s camp will be seen as evidence that the FA got it wrong, rather than the more unpalatable possibility that this generation of players are a bunch of pampered infants who don’t care for the England shirt as much as they do for the fame and glory of the Premiership. The journos will have to work with the players when Hodgson is gone, after all; they need to keep them on side.   
 
We know it already, those of us who’ve seen England through thin and thin these past few years of trophyless despair. We try and back our managers, our hope that they might provide that elusive spark, but we know, sooner or later, there will come the time when they say goodbye and hand the baton de merde over to a new candidate. 
 
For what it’s worth, I’d like to see Hodgson succeed, just as I wanted Capello to succeed, and McClaren, and all the others. I think he has a better chance than most, and was probably the right choice. But what do I know? 
 
The hope rises again, but the knives are already being sharpened. 
Why didn't Harry Redknapp get the gig? Photo: Getty Images
Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Labour is launching a stealthy Scottish comeback - thanks to Jeremy Corbyn and the Daily Mail

The Scottish Labour strategy is paying off - and hard evidence that it works may be more plentiful come 8 June 2017

When I suggested to a senior Scottish Labour figure earlier this year that the party was a car crash, he rejected my assertion.

“We’re past that,” he said gloomily. “Now we’re the burnt-out wreck in a field that no-one even notices anymore.”

And yet, just as the election campaign has seen Jeremy Corbyn transformed from an outdated jalopy into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang magically soaring in the polls, Scottish Labour is beginning to look roadworthy again.

And it’s all down to two apparently contradictory forces – Corbyn and The Daily Mail.

Kezia Dugdale’s decision to hire Alan Roden, then the Scottish Daily Mail’s political editor, as her spin doctor in chief last summer was said to have lost her some party members. It may win her some new members of parliament just nine months later.

Roden’s undoubted nose for a story and nous in driving the news agenda, learned in his years at the Mail, has seen Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly forced to defend her government record on health and education in recent weeks, even though her Holyrood administration is not up for election next month.

On ITV’s leaders debate she confessed that, despite 10 years in power, the Scottish education system is in need of some attention. And a few days later she was taken to task during a BBC debate involving the Scottish leaders by a nurse who told her she had to visit a food bank to get by. The subsequent SNP attempt to smear that nurse was a pathetic mis-step by the party that suggested their media operation had gone awry.

It’s not the Tories putting Sturgeon on the defence. They, like the SNP, are happy to contend the general election on constitutional issues in the hope of corralling the unionist vote or even just the votes of those that don’t yet want a second independence referendum. It is Labour who are spotting the opportunities and maximising them.

However, that would not be enough alone. For although folk like Dugdale as a person – as evidenced in Lord Ashcroft’s latest polling - she lacks the policy chops to build on that. Witness her dopey proposal ahead of the last Holyrood election to raise income tax.

Dugdale may be a self-confessed Blairite but what’s powering Scottish Labour just now is Jeremy Corbyn’s more left-wing policy platform.

For as Brexit has dropped down the agenda at this election, and bread and butter stuff like health and education has moved centre stage, Scots are seeing that for all the SNP’s left wing rhetoric, after 10 years in power in Holyrood, there’s not a lot of progressive policy to show for it.

Corbyn’s manifesto, even though huge chunks of it won’t apply in Scotland, is progressive. The evidence is anecdotal at the moment, but it seems some Scots voters find it more attractive than the timid managerialism of the SNP. This is particularly the case with another independence referendum looking very unlikely before the 2020s, on either the nationalists' or the Conservatives' timetable.

Evidence that the Scottish Labour strategy has worked may be more plentiful come 8 June 2017. The polls, albeit with small sample sizes so best approached with caution, have Ian Murray streets ahead in the battle to defend Edinburgh South. There’s a lot of optimism in East Lothian where Labour won the council earlier in May and MSP Iain Gray increased his majority at the Scottish election last year. Labour have chosen their local candidate well in local teacher Martin Whitfield, and if the unionist vote swings behind him he could overhaul sitting MP George Kerevan’s 7,000 majority. (As we learned in 2015, apparently safe majorities mean nothing in the face of larger electoral forces). In East Renfrewshire, Labour's Blair McDougall, the man who led Better Together in 2014, can out-unionist the Tory candidate.

But, while in April, it was suggested that these three seats would be the sole focus of the Scottish Labour campaign, that attitude has changed after the local elections. Labour lost Glasgow but did not implode. In chunks of their former west of Scotland heartlands there was signs of life.

Mhairi Black’s a media darling, but her reputation as a local MP rather than a local celebrity is not great. Labour would love to unseat her, in what would be a huge upset, or perhaps more realistically go after Gavin Newlands in the neighbouring Paisley seat.

They are also sniffing Glasgow East. With Natalie McGarry’s stint as MP ending in tears – a police investigation, voting in her wedding dress and fainting in the chamber sums up her two years in Westminster – Labour ought to be in with a chance in the deprived neighbourhoods of Glasgow’s east end.

Labour in Scotland doesn’t feel like such a wreck anymore. Alan Roden’s Daily Mail-honed media nous has grabbed attention. Corbyn’s progressive policies have put fuel in the tank.

After polling day, the party will be able to fit all its Scottish MPs comfortably in a small hatchback, compared to the double decker bus necessary just a few years back.

But this general election could give the party the necessary shove to get on to the long road back.

James Millar is a political journalist and founder of the Political Yeti's Politics Podcast. He is co-author of The Gender Agenda, which will be published July 21 by Jessica Kingsley Publishing.

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