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.

Priests and politicians


Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminded me of the differences between priests and politicians earlier this week in Committee Room 14. I listened to him and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson talking about the end of poverty and war. The Archbishop spoke about the interdependence of our family of humans. A MP suggested that it is only religious and cultural leaders, not politicians, who can ask people to be good. It is everyone’s responsibility, the Archbishop replied.


I spent some days thinking about whether it is the job of priests to try and overcome divisions while politicians are always partisan and in the business of taking sides. Partisanship is vital for democracy; the imposition of only one view amounts to tyranny, after all.


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