by Dr Jack Holland
As those of you who have taken my modules will know, unlike my colleagues, I’m not really one for European Politics. It’s all bratwursts and talking and complicated voting and irrelevant bodies and banana straightening and the French. For me, it lacks the, y’know, global relevance of American foreign policy or the immediacy of British politics. I do, however, indulge in a bit of Australian foreign policy. Best to keep that one quiet, I suspect. Anyway, following the heady-heights of Eurovision, our continental neighbours have once again been launched into combat with the start of Euro 2012. [Ed – what’s this? Running and now football? Thought you were an academic?!]
The Euros have been rather entertaining. Not a single goalless draw and hardly a clean sheet kept, despite (for once) what appears to be a football that wasn’t designed to be toe-punted on a beach. There have been upsets and epics alongside predictable inevitability. As the Germans (sort of) say: the ball is round, the game is 90 minutes and at the end Germany win. They suspect, I hear, that God might be Bavarian. That’s not necessarily the view from Greece. And this is what has particularly delighted me about the Euros this summer. Greece sprung a huge upset by qualifying for the quarter-finals via a hard-fought victory against a good Russian side. It affords them the opportunity to go head-to-head with the country that has effectively decided to bail them out or hold them to ransom or possibly both. Greeks and many neutrals alike will enjoy the possibility of (imagined) poetic justice as the Greeks attempt a shock of Trojan Horse proportions against the nation perceived to be gripping the fiscal reins a little too tightly.
Other countries have also seized the opportunity to take a swipe at Europe’s economic and footballing powerhouse. Even when they aren’t actually playing. Spain versus Ireland saw two of Europe’s other nations with struggling and bailed out economies come together on the football pitch and, it seems, in the stands. Our very own PhD student, Graduate Teaching Assistant and man-in-the-stand Ciaran Gillespie tells me that the unifying chant amongst Irish and Spaniards was: “we’re drinking German money!” It appears that concerns about the Germans continue to unify Europeans. The Spanish PM had been criticised four days earlier for attending the Spain-Italy game just as the bailout was announced. Perhaps he was hoping that, with Spain playing in Poland and Nadal winning in Paris, sporting excellence might distract from economic woes at home?
On Twitter, the footballing success of states with left-of-centre governments hasn’t gone unnoticed. Virtually gathering at the #leftwhip hashtag, “Political Animal” (@politic_animal) has even tried to rally support for those countries playing more resistant to austerity economics. I can do no better than leave you with their running commentary on the England-Sweden game:
• Comment: England’s attempt to distance itself from Cameronism by not starting player who sounds like a Bullingdon member fails. [Ed – That’s Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain].
• Comment: the Swedish team’s confidence clearly reflects the peace-of-mind that comes with generous paid paternity leave.
• BBC commentary team show how to spoil an England goal – use the words ‘all in it together’.
• Comment: Sweden clearly demoralised by playing in coalition colours.
• Crumbling social democratic consensus 1 – 1 Needless austerity.
• Comment: Sweden would be 2-1 up if their coach’s name didn’t sound a lot like ‘David Cameron’ when said by BBC commentators. [Ed – Erik Hamren].
• Comment: Swedish players should discomfort England by telling stories of the failure of Sweden’s for-profit free schools.
• Spies in Swedish dressing room say Sweden rallied by remembering that it was just 2yrs 3months y’day until next general election.
• Cameron-lite quasi-social democracy 2 – 2 Full-on Cameronism.
• Michael Gove’s spiritual home 2 – 3 Michael Gove’s actual home.
And, one more, for luck:
• Colour-wise Ukraine v. France was how I imagine it goes during Cabinet negotiations #allezlesbleus #taxipourClegg
(All tweets available by following @Politic_Animal. And why not follow some members of staff, for instance: @DrJackHolland @Usherwood
Dr Holland is a Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Surrey.