The Racing Card

The Bet - England to win Euro 2000 and Labour to win election

11-1
(Source Ladbrokes)

The relationship between new Labour and the national game has been well documented and it's easy to be cynical about it. The main reason being that Tony Blair is not as keen on football as his press secretary, who has been guilty of exaggerating his master's love for the game. I remember when we fixed a camera to film Blair and Gordon Brown watching a big match on the telly, and it was obvious that Blair was not interested in the match. His legendary interview on his beloved Newcastle United only confirmed his ignorance of the game. He couldn't even remember the first Mags match he ever saw, something all true fans will never forget.

It's a pity that, in his bid to link the people's game to the people's party, Blair has undermined the credentials of the real football fans in the Cabinet. First and foremost is the Chancellor, who took me on foreign trips only to organise finding somewhere with a television to watch a Premier League game. Once, in an Irish bar in New York, hundreds of Newcastle and Man U fans clocked him and united to sing "There's only one Gordon Brown". Another true fan is Ann Taylor who is a fanatical Bolton supporter. I met her at Wembley the other day for the Worthington Cup final, and the thought of talking about politics never entered her head.

Ironically, Jack Straw, who is responsible for preventing the nutters from wrecking Euro 2000, is also mad keen on football and has a season ticket for Blackburn Rovers. Unlike David Mellor at Chelsea, Straw chooses to sit with the fans, not in the directors' box. If Inger-land do, by some miracle, win Euro 2000, expect Blair to repeat his head-tennis game with Kevin Keegan and new Labour to take some of the credit.