Caught by Olympics fever like the rest of the nation, it seemed utterly appropriate to be interviewing Sir Menzies Campbell on the day that Bolt won the 200m. Sir Menzies ran the same race for GB in 1964. We discussed the differences between sport and politics. You win in sports by seconds or centimetres whereas a politician measures success by votes. Hard work and a fiercely competitive streak are useful to both. Athletes and politicians compete for themselves but also for their team and their nation. They can make our spirits soar. When Mo Farrar won the 10,000m and then the 5,000m last night patriotism no longer felt embarrassing.


So why are politicians so rarely treated as heroes? People often doubt MPs’ altruism, assuming that they have to be either unselfish or ego maniacs. But the truth is more likely to be one of mixed motives, fluctuating as they do for athletes between wanting to win for themselves and wanting their team or country to do well too.


Judging the success of politicians between elections is much trickier than ranking sports men and women. MPs can be brilliant at responding to constituents’ problems or terrific at speaking in the Commons chamber or wily at getting promoting a cause behind the scenes. But which is more important? And anyway how are we to know what they are doing when the media often focus on trivia and party political disputes? This is partly why I am interested in having a close look at the work of MPs.