All that glisters is not gold

I recently drew attention to the silence of the BBC and the rest of the experts on the connection between the Brexit vote and Team GB’s triumph in Rio.

This was not meant to be taken seriously, though we now know why David Cameron was so keen to get the referendum out of the way so far ahead of the-end-of-2017 deadline.

If it was held next week, with jingoism at its present level, the Bremainers would be lucky to get 25%.

Predictably, the Daily Mail is on the case with a leader headed:

“The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games gave us a golden lesson in how we can beat the world outside of the EU.”

And Dominic Sandbrook, writing in the same paper under the headline: “Memo to moping Remainers – Team GB shows how great Britain can be on its own”, tells us:

“Above all, Rio is a reminder that we should never lose confidence in our native land. Not for nothing do we call ourselves Great Britain. And if you doubt it, just look at that medal table.”

All this triumphalism is so un-British and almost makes me yearn for the days when we complained that Zatopek and all those other Eastern European stars had sinecures in their country’s armies that allowed them to train full time, while our brave boys and girls had jobs to hold down and were lucky to get a couple of spins round the local park of a weekend.

And, when our soccer team lost, the same Daily Mail responded with stories about jersey-pulling continentals and their unsporting habit of diving in an attempt to con the referee into awarding a penalty.

Those were the days when we Brits consoled ourselves with the thought that it was not the winning that was important, but the taking part, and a young boy could read with admiration of the captain of the Corinthians who ordered his goalie to stand on the bye-line while the opposition took a penalty; given after one of his defenders had deliberately handled the ball to save a certain score.

Batsmen walked when they had snicked the ball to the wicketkeeper and rugby scrum halves put the ball in straight.

Born in 1940, the 1952 Helsinki Olympics is the first I remember.

For the benefit of younger readers, Team GB won a single gold medal in 1952 and that was in the very last event when Aberdare boy Harry Llewellyn piloted Foxhunter to a clear round to clinch first place in the team show jumping.

Actually, he was Colonel Harry Llewellyn, for, as his Wikipedia entry records: “During World war II  he saw action in Italy and after D-day in Normandy and served as a liaison officer to Field Marshal Montgomery, eventually rising to the rank of Colonel in the British Army.”

As Sandbrook says: “Not for nothing do we call ourselves Great Britain.”

In any case, I’m not sure it’s wise to treat a shed load of Olympic medals as evidence of anything other than sporting excellence.

After all, while athletes from Warsaw Pact countries were dominating the international running tracks, the people at home behind the Iron Curtain were spending a significant part of their lives standing in bread queues.

Speaking of queues reminds me of President Obama’s contribution to the Brexit debate.

You will recall he stood next to David Cameron in the No 10 rose garden and issued a warning that the UK outside the EU shouldn’t expect any favours from the Americans when it came to trade deals.

On the contrary, he announced, we would “go to the back of the queue”.

Someone once said that Britain and USA were “two countries divided by a common language” and as keen observers noted the use of the English “queue” rather the the American “line” was a clear indication that the President’s words had been penned by someone in the Prime Minister’s office.

It was a bad time for us Brexiteers because every economic expert and his uncle was confidently predicting that a vote to leave would result in economic meltdown.

It was at this low point in the Leave campaign that I turned on the radio early one morning to listen the “Farming Today” and was heartened to learn that the subject for discussion was the effect of taking back control of the UK’s fishing rights.

But my joy was short-lived because the independent expert – Dr Bryce Stewart of York University’s Marine Studies Department – rejected outright the idea that it would make any difference at all.

This was so at odds with my own understanding of the situation – gathered first hand from conversations with Milford Haven fisherman in the bar of the Lord Kitchener hotel – that I decided to investigate.

And, sure enough, thanks to the wonders of the Web, I discovered that Dr Stewart did consultancy work for an outfit known as ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) and, after some further searching, I came across its latest annual report which revealed that it was funded by £10 million from the EU and an even larger amount from a collection of its member governments.