Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Croquet: A Posh Game?

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! ;)


Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,

I don't keep tabs on your blog very often, but after you mentioned that you would be writing about my favourite sport this evening I thought I'd pay you a virtual visit.
I didn't realise I would be part of the column, and was thus amused (and very chuffed) to be described as "not posh." Thanks for the vote of confidence!

I must admit I actually thought the better of John Prescott after hearing about his spate of croquet playing. And - is it just me? - I actually find it quite comforting to think that the deputy PM could nip off for a game of croquet without anything bad happening to the country. It was a sunny day, after all. As for croquet being a toff's game, that's utter bollocks. It only shows what a joyless existence some of these narrow-minded hacks lead!

Interesting that croquet is viewed as middle class. I don't think class comes into it much at the competitive level. Recreationally I suppose it ranks with cricket (and rugby) as a 'civilised' game (with about as much justification!)


P.s. Incidentally (a more general question, this) what's wrong with being any particular class? I think it's most commonly middle class people who use 'middle class' in a vaguely pejorative sense, but as long as class relates to cultural preferences and is not an indicator of personal worth I don't see what the problem is. In this sense, wouldn't a classless society be a lot more boring?

Paul Burgin said...

Liz I do agree with what you said, I was just trying to defend Prescott's actions, and was probably being defensive in turn!

Shaun (ed.) said...

Ironic isn't it. There has been hundreds of real reasons for Prescott to resign (incompetence, punching voters, adultery, abuse of office, dishonesty, hypocrisy etc.), but only when Labour MPs see him playing croquet do they start calling for him to resign What do they have against the sport?:-)

This is what one Labour MP had to say: "If only he'd been caught playing rugby league or cricket, BUT CROQUET!"

SPL said...

I would tend to agree. As I point out here, playing croquet is hardly a resigning issue equivalent to Blunkett's blunders or Clarke's incompetence.

Paul Burgin said...

I think you will find that those in Labour who are angry with Prescott are not angry with him because of the croquet! Plus it was the Tory Mail that has made a fuss of it!

Shaun (ed.) said...

Plus it was the Tory Mail that has made a fuss of it!
Oh, so it's a Tory conspiracy then. I see:-)

You conveniently forget that the same photo was on Monday's Daily Mirror frontpage (here's the link: http://www.mydailymirror.com/images/papers/2006/05/p20060529.jpg)
The Daily Mirror isn't exactly a bastion of Toryism, especially not with Kevin 'class warrior' Maguire at the helm as political editor.

It's the Labour MPs that are complaining - the most you'll get from the Tory MPs is chuckles and 'ironic isn't it' laughs.

Paul Burgin said...

But it was the Mail On Sunday that released the photo!

the dúnadan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The dúnadan said...

Sorry, the above deleted message was mine.

I just wanted to add that (re: the poshness of croquet) my grandfather owned a croquet set. He was a member of the kirk and a socialist of the old school. He would not have been a fan of Mr. Blair's.

Paul Burgin said...

Well there you go!
If anyone is class consious in this, it's The Mail as usual. The sort of newspaper where, if it was a person would see gazzpacho soup on the menu at a resturant, decide it was important to have, and then complain because it was cold!

Shaun (ed.) said...

But it was the Mail On Sunday that released the photo!

I know, but it was Labour politicians who made a fuss about Prescott playing croquet. And if people want to read the Mail then let them. Funny, how you Labourites are so obessed with class.

Paul Burgin said...

Well I don't know which party you have been watching, but in my experience Labour is not obsessed with class. We are bothered by inequality in our society which is something different and which should be a conern to all politicians!