I have in the past warbled on about parliamentarians and golf. I particularly remember Liam Fox, who used to be a minster of something or other in one of the Conservative governments of the past dozen or so years, getting very aerated about British businessmen spending too much time on the golf course instead of…well, you know, conducting business. This was the same Liam Fox who said, 100% incorrectly, that doing a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States would be just about the easiest thing on earth. Other things aside, he was saying that, and giving grief about the game of golf, while the US president was Donald Trump. As you are very probably aware, Mr Trump is quite partial to his golf.
Now it’s happening again. In the end days of January, Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made an emphatic point about the many people (men especially) in their 50s who for whatever reason, post-pandemic in particular, had decided to quit work. “Life,” said Hunt, “doesn’t just have to be about going to the golf course”. By coincidence, the day after he said this, in a column in The Times, Giles Coren (who is only a food critic rather than a senior politician), wrote: “What do you want to do when you’re old, anyway? Work is the only thing. You want to play golf or bridge or mahjong all day or go on some awful cruise?” I was tempted to respond along the lines that some cruises would be ideal for a golf holiday (not that I’ve done that) and that bridge is a popular pastime at many golf clubs, but I couldn’t be bothered.
Then, blow me, earlier this week The Times was quoting a guy who’s a member at Alderley Edge Golf Club in Cheshire. He’s 65, used to commute to London pretty regularly, and he was not remotely minded to swap 10 hours a week on the golf course in order to respond positively to the government’s appeal. “I don’t know anyone who is answering Hunt’s call,” he said – presumably while totting up his stableford points. In The Guardian, meanwhile, Marina Hyde was giving Prince Andrew a bit of a kicking, pointing out that given the various pieces of unpleasantness surrounding him, notably regarding the company he used to keep, “Andrew no longer enjoys the range of confected positions that enabled him to be helicoptered between the world’s finest golf courses.” Indeed; I think his days of honorary membership at somewhere like, say, Alderley Edge are long gone.
I am not making any major point, moral or otherwise, here. But leaving aside the wayward royal, I think that government ministers, former or contemporary, should think twice before doing golf down. I mean, it’s not like they’re getting everything right themselves. As has been pointed out more than once in the past week in a different sporting context, there may be a case for the appointment of a regulator to oversee the way in which professional football is administered in England. But ask yourself who lately has run a better operation – the Premier League or the UK government – and I don’t think that needs to go to penalties. For example, the last I checked, our teams weren’t pulling out of the Champions League.