Starmer’s attempt to hijack England’s sporting bandwagon shows why it’s so hard for Welsh fans to get onboard
Ifan Morgan Jones
Let me be clear (a phrase politicians are so fond of) – I have nothing against England’s women’s football team.
I was even, in a quite subdued way, not quite cheering them on but at least wishing them well at Euro 2022.
Anything that boosts participation in women’s football, and helps bring them to equal prominence with men’s football, is a positive thing. Germany has won eight of the last ten tournaments, which is reason enough to back the English underdog.
But good Lord, England’s politicians and their media don’t make these things easy, do they? They just can’t help themselves.
They can’t just let English sporting success stand on its own merits, to be supported or viewed with indifference depending on the audiences’ levels of interest, or lack of.
As soon as England reaches a major tournament – or in the case of women’s football, the latter stages – that success needs to be crowbarred by their own political agenda in the most opportunistic way possible.
Hence Keir Starmer’s demand in the Mirror that “all Brits” be given a bank holiday if the Lionesses beat Germany in the final on Sunday.
“The whole country will be roaring on the Lionesses in the final on Sunday,” he said.
“They have already done us proud, but if they win it will be a truly historic achievement – one that should be marked with a proper day of celebration.”
Here, Keir Starmer isn’t just jumping on a bandwagon but hijacking it – turning what was a positive celebration of women’s sport into something that serves his own political ends.
The aim, of course, is to boost a form of British national identity in which Wales and Scotland are expected to support England because it’s their country as well.
This is nonsense because the English football team is the English football team. ‘We’ don’t have to support it, because it isn’t ours.
It’s like demanding that Manchester United and Manchester City fans support each other because they’re both from Manchester.
You could, in fact, be very proud of being British and not be expected to feel forced to feel positively about the sporting success of another part of it.
But the obvious ploy here is to try and hijack England’s success into serving Kair Starmer’s own political interests, which is to boost unionism in Wales and Scotland.
British/English politicians and media just don’t realise how much ill-will this engenders, and that it’s a big reason why the Welsh and Scottish adopt an ‘anyone but England’ approach in the first place.
To be badgered and harried into supporting a team that means nothing to you turns indifference into ill will.
I didn’t really mind who won the Euro 2022 final on Sunday. If England won I would have enjoyed the sporting drama and clapped and wishes them well just like any other team.
If Germany do now win it however at least that will be mixed with relief that we won’t have to suffer any more cack-handed attempts by politicians to milk England’s triumph for their own political ends.
As a Welshman, it’s hard to get on board that English sporting bandwagon knowing it’s going to be hijacked every single time.
In Keir Starmer’s case, all he’s managed to do is once again to drive that bandwagon into a ditch.
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