Like many in the Labour Party, I would be lying if I said I was not irritated or annoyed by some of the revelations about John Prescott's actions in the past few weeks. Of course Peter Mandelson's comments were as helpful as ever, suffice to say I think it isn't a secret that there is no love lost between him and John Prescott.
But aside from the arguments as to whether he should resign, can he remain as Deputy etc.. there is the Mail On Sunday's papparatzi's snaps of him playing croquet at Dorneywood, his official residence, last Thursday.
In the past week Prescott has been officially managing the nation in the PM's absence, now I object to this photo for a no of reasons. First of all it implies that rulers are not allowed to have a relaxing moment (why not attack every PM or any other leader, every time he or she leaves his or her desk !) Secondly, it was a papparatzi photograph and therefore an invasion of privacy, as well as another moment of hypocricy from the Mail Group which stated after Princess Diana's death that they would never publish a papparatzi photograph again! Thirdly there is the inverted snobbery. For a start Peter Oborne stated in today's Evening Standard that David Cameron has an afternoon nap and that before any Labour person has a go, Cameron always has it between about two and three PM, i.e. the proper time! So Prescott's first major sin in some Conservatives eyes is that he made a gaffe in timing his siesta. The second, of course, is that he played croquet.
What bad form! If only he played football with a no of colleagues then it wouldn't be so bad. The implication being of course, that croquet is a sport for gentlemen and not for oiks like Prescott who bait Tories for breakfast (The main reason why Conservatives despise Prescott. They ought to see some of the "unpleasant", "unsophisticated", "chip-on-the-shoulder" "bruisers" in their Party. I could mention one or two oiks there by name and the vicious tales I have heard about them, but I value the contents of my bank account!)
But anyway, croquet, the object of my blog posting! In my experience it isn't all that much a class sport. A bit rare, but not the preserve of the posh!
I first came across it some twenty plus years ago, when the Burgin family lived in Enstone, Oxfordshire (Yes I know, very middle class village, in David Cameron's constituency and all that. I mentioned it all in a previous entry). We lived in an ordinary cul-de-sac, called The Spinneys, in an ordinary house with four bedrooms. We were/are a fairly ordinary family and we didn't have any hired help. One of my friends lived in a similar house across the road and they had a croquet set. I think I played more games then, than I have ever done since.
The second time was at the house of a prominent member of one of the Anglican churches in Letchworth, Herts. That was at a summer party when I was about seventeen. Another series of occasions was when I worked at Ecton House (Then a Church of England Retreat and Conference Centre) during my year out. During the summer, when my dutch colleague Wouter was working there, and it was quiet, we would play the odd game. Then there is a close friend of mine from Durham. Liz, who is a big croquet fan, but is one of the most (I wouldn't say ordinary, she isn't, she's better than that!) friendly, approachable, and down-to-earth people you could meet. She may be a Phd student, but (and chosing my words carefully because a) I have a very high opinion of her and b) she could be reading this) I wouldn't say she is posh.
Okay, hands in the air, I will concede that croquet is a bit "middle class", but it needn't be, is an accessible sport for all(unlike Polo), is easy to learn, great fun, but a bit of a rarity in the UK which is it's problem. Anyone can play it!
Except of course John Prescott. He is the big target for the Conservatives at the moment, so the Editors at the Mail have deemed that he isn't allowed! ;)