Tag Archives: don-foster

The Lib Dem B Team (UPDATE)

Since my last post on Clegg’s frontbench reshuffled caused such a stir, I thought I ought to at least comment on the finalisation of his team.

Firstly, on the question that adding the names makes the teams too large, I don’t accept this. The Shadow Ministers have limited roles to focus on specific areas; there is no question, as far as I am aware, of them taking a lead on issues. They are there to deputise primarily. While there is certainly an argument that the party should focus on pushing a handful of personalities – just the leader even – rather than a wide and potentially confusing group, we still need a team in size roughly equivalent to the government and Tory front benches simply to keep abreast of things.

Secondly, and I have to admit to knowing this shortly after my last post, but it is nice to see Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott on the list. I would rather see them doing substantial roles such as FCO and Justice than to be given totemic roles such as women, equalities and youth. The tendency to push women into these “soft” positions, while often well meaning, undermines them. It is one of the reasons why I view London Young Labour’s attempts to portray them as martyrs with such contempt.

Thirdly, it is interesting to see Evan Harris’ return from the wilderness. Shadow Minister for Science is an ideal role for him and I wish him well.

Fourthly, the absence of a culture minister is noteworthy. This means that Don Foster is covering the whole brief, from television through to the Olympics. Whilst this is possibly not the most crucial area of policy going, it does look as if it has been given a very low status by Clegg. By contrast I view this brief as an opportunity, if used creatively, to reach out to people normally uninterested in politics. I don’t think Don Foster has been doing that and I certainly can’t see him being able to do so if he has to do all the spadework himself.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Evan Harris was already Shadow Science Minister and thus this isn’t a promotion for him. Apologies (this, Omar, is called making a correction).

It isn’t just me who gets my facts wrong however; the Guardian describes Jo Swinson as the previous spokes on youth issues. ARGH!

Foolball economics

I’m confused about what Don Foster wants us to do about the price of football tickets in the UK:

“This just goes to show that rip-off Britain is alive and well.

“If European clubs can keep their prices down, there’s no reason why English clubs can’t follow their lead.

“Despite the recent enormous TV cash windfall and the promise to freeze ticket prices, many clubs are still massively overcharging their fans.

“Last season we saw empty seats at premiership grounds – when will clubs wake up to the fact that ordinary fans are the lifeblood of the game?”

Now, I should preface this by mentioning that football is not my greatest passion, but isn’t all this just a consequence of the business model adopted by football clubs in this country, as opposed to, say, Spain?

UK football, at least at the top level, isn’t a sport, it’s a business. Global brands compete with each other on a world stage, trying to attract the attention of Indians and the Chinese as much as English football fans. Foster is just plain wrong to claim that English fans are the ‘lifeblood’ of English football; if that was how it works, this wouldn’t be an issue. Lowering prices would hurt them in two ways: firstly it would diminish the amount they could extract from TV companies (if people can just turn up to watch a football match locally, complete with all the ambience of a live match, why would they bother watching it on TV?); secondly, it would harm their sales of corporate seating. You can be sure that the price they charge for tickets maximises their profits.

Football fans know all this, and while they like to whinge they are always ultimately happy to cough up, so what’s the problem?

If you do have a problem with it, the answer is very simple: switch your support from a team in the Premiership to a team lower down in the pecking order. People are doing this. On the other hand, if you want soulless corporate football, you have to pay for it.

Don Foster’s intervention implies, although does not state explicitly, that the government ought to do something about it; otherwise what does it have to do with a DCMS spokesperson? His allusion to “rip off Britain” is just plain daft: you can’t simply ‘buy’ a team in mainland Europe in the way that you could buy a car to avoid the over-pricing that was rife in the motor industry a few years ago.

There are lots of things that you could argue the market cannot adequately manage. Football is not one of them. The fact that most fans are chumps is another matter.